Road up­grades gather pace:

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Africa Moyo Se­nior Busi­ness Re­porter

THE mod­erni­sa­tion of ma­jor roads, par­tic­u­larly the much-talked about Harare-Beit­bridge high­way, is gather­ing pace af­ter Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials met An­hui For­eign Eco­nomic Con­struc­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (AFECC) rep­re­sen­ta­tives last week to dis­cuss the com­pany’s pre­pared­ness to con­struct one of Africa’s busiest high­ways.

Fur­ther, Gov­ern­ment has short-listed 85 com­pa­nies to mod­ernise 20 other crit­i­cal high­ways, in­clud­ing the Bu­l­awayo-Vic­to­ria Falls road, and the Birchenough Bridge. The Bu­l­awayo-Vic­to­ria Falls high­way has at­tracted a stag­ger­ing 16 bid­ders.

Some of the world’s well-heeled firms short-listed to mod­ernise the high­ways in­clude China State En­gi­neer­ing Com­pany Lim­ited and China Rail­way Num­ber 3 En­gi­neer­ing Group.

Gov­ern­ment wants the short-listed firms to sub­mit tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial pro­pos­als for the fea­si­bil­ity study of the up­grad­ing, con­struc­tion and tolling of the roads and bridges through pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships (PPPs). Dead­line for sub­mis­sion of pro­pos­als is to­mor­row.

In his ad­dress at the Gen­eral De­bate of the 73rd Ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly last week, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa re­it­er­ated his Gov­ern­ment’s de­sire to mod­ernise roads and other key in­fra­struc­ture.

“The de­vel­op­ment and mod­erni­sa­tion of our roads, rail­ways, air­ports, en­ergy and ICT in­fra­struc­ture is be­ing ac­cel­er­ated in line with our re­gional and con­ti­nen­tal quest for en­hanced con­nec­tiv­ity and in­te­grated in­fra­struc­ture,” said Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa.

Last Wed­nes­day, Deputy Min­is­ter of Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment, Ad­vo­cate For­tune Chasi told The Sun­day Mail Busi­ness that Gov­ern­ment wants the mod­erni­sa­tion of the Harare-Beit­bridge High­way un­der­taken as soon as yes­ter­day.

“We are (still) try­ing to un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments and also look­ing at other pos­si­ble fund­ing models that will give the coun­try the best deal,” said Adv Chasi.

“Since we came into of­fice, we haven’t spo­ken to any out­siders con­cern­ing that project. We en­gaged in a process of ex­tract­ing in­for­ma­tion from our staff con­cern­ing the way for­ward. But our non-ne­go­tiable po­si­tion is that we want works to be­gin yes­ter­day; that is what we are work­ing on.

“Our ma­jor con­cern is that works must start as soon as is rea­son­ably prac­ti­cal. We can­not con­tinue to wait and watch when noth­ing is hap­pen­ing.”

Se­nior AFECC of­fi­cials are un­der­stood to have met Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter, En­gi­neer Joel Biggie Ma­tiza, last Thurs­day and spoke at length about the con­struc­tion of the Harare-Beit­bridge High­way.

Sources close to the meet­ing said AFECC of­fi­cials were in­structed to go and pre­pare their pro­posal.

AFECC came back into the equa­tion af­ter Gov­ern­ment cancelled Geiger In­ter­na­tional’s con­tract to con­struct the Harare-Beit­bridge High­way fol­low­ing two years of in­ac­tiv­ity.

Geiger In­ter­na­tional had its ten­der ap­proved by Gov­ern­ment in 2015, and com­mis­sioned the project in May 2016 at Chatsworth, along the Harare-Masvingo High­way. How­ever, noth­ing took place, prompt­ing the with­drawal of the con­tract.

Cab­i­net then di­rected AFECC, whose bid had come sec­ond to Geiger’s, to re­view the terms and con­di­tions set out by the Aus­trian firm. AFECC im­me­di­ately sum­moned its tech­ni­cians to study the project. Sources close to AFECC said the com­pany has since re­viewed its po­si­tion and sub­mit­ted it to the Min­istry of Trans­port last week. The pro­posal en­tails mod­erni­sa­tion of the en­tire high­way that cuts across Zim­babwe, from Beit­bridge to Chirundu.

“They are now wait­ing for feed­back from Gov­ern­ment, but I can tell you that they have agreed to adopt a Build Op­er­ate and Trans­fer (BOT) model in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Harare-Beit­bridge sec­tion, which is the first phase of the project.

“They will then adopt EPC (En­gi­neer­ing, Procur­ing and Con­struc­tion) and fi­nanc­ing model for the Harare-Chirundu sec­tion, which will be in the sec­ond phase. If that po­si­tion is ac­cepted, they will go ahead to sign a Frame­work Agree­ment, a Con­ces­sion Agree­ment and other nec­es­sary agree­ments which are re­quired for such a big project. But on the whole, I see an agree­ment be­ing struck in the near fu­ture be­cause Gov­ern­ment wants this project to be im­ple­mented soon,” ex­plained the source.

How­ever, it is not yet clear how the project will be un­der­taken given that there were con­cerns in the past that du­al­is­ing the en­tire 585km high­way was not vi­able con­sid­er­ing that only be­tween 2 500 and 3 000 ve­hi­cles use the high­way daily. Fears are that it will take longer for con­trac­tors to re­cover their in­vest­ment.

Geiger had es­ti­mated the project to cost US$1,7 bil­lion, with the du­al­i­sa­tion of the Harare-Beit­bridge High­way alone gob­bling US$998 mil­lion while the cost for the Harare ring-road was pegged at US$300 mil­lion. The Harare-Chirundu Road sec­tion was es­ti­mated to cost US$665 mil­lion.

The US$998 mil­lion loan for the Harare-Beit­bridge sec­tion was ex­pected to be re­paid over 20 years from toll fees.

Some con­trac­tors pro­posed du­al­is­ing the Harare to Chivhu sec­tion, ar­eas ap­proach­ing towns and steep gra­di­ents, with other sec­tions only be­ing widened. But Adv Chasi said Gov­ern­ment had not in­sisted that it (high­way) must be du­alised all the way. South Africa’s N1 High­way (Beit­bridge to Johannesburg) is only du­alised as it ap­proaches towns, just like the Chirundu-Lusaka high­way.

While Adv Chasi said he could not say who will win the con­tract “be­cause we haven’t got to that point at all”, sources be­lieve AFECC will land the project.

AFECC, a Chi­nese large-scale multi-op­er­a­tional en­tity set up in 1992, has been one of the top in­vestors in Zim­babwe since the land re­form pro­gramme. It has con­structed the Zim­babwe Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity and Longcheng Plaza in Harare, the Golden Pea­cock Ho­tel in Mutare, and owns an­other Golden Pea­cock Ho­tel in Harare’s leafy sub­urb of Bor­row­dale. The two ho­tels em­ploy about 170 lo­cals while hun­dreds more work at Longcheng Plaza.

Other key road projects

Gov­ern­ment also wants other in­vestors to con­struct the Karoi-Binga-Dete road. Four in­vestors have been short-listed for the project. The Mount Dar­win-Mukum­bura road has at­tracted one bid­der while the Mvurwi-Gu­ruve-Kanyemba road has three com­pa­nies short­listed .

China Geo-En­gi­neer­ing Cor­po­ra­tion is bat­tling it out with six other firms for the Kwekwe-Nkayi-Lu­pane road, and is also in­ter­ested in the Golden Val­ley-Sany­ati-Kuwiri­rana-Nem­budziya road, in which it will con­test against Epic Fi­nan­cial LLC.

Ten com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing China State Con­struc­tion En­gi­neer­ing Co. Ltd, Masimba Ten­craft Prostruct Con­sor­tium and China Rail­way Num­ber 3 En­gi­neer­ing Group, are vy­ing for the Harare-Bin­dura road. ALW-Team In­vest­ments (Pvt) Ltd, owned by Mr Timothy Mn­cube, a Zim­bab­wean based in South Africa, is bat­tling it out with two other com­pa­nies for the Bu­l­awayo-Nkayi road.

Sino Hy­dro Cor­po­ra­tion Ltd is slug­ging it out with three other com­pa­nies for the up­grad­ing of the Birchenough Bridge where ve­hi­cles go­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions are now tak­ing turns to pass.

Other roads ear­marked for up­grad­ing are Rutenga-Boli-Sango, Bu­l­awayo-Tsholot­sho, Buchwa-Rutenga, Mberengwa-West Nicholson, Gwanda-Tuli, Plumtree-Mait­engwe, Plumtree-Mpho­engs, Mu­ram­binda-Birchenough, Bu­l­awayo Air­port Road and Beit­bridge-Bu­l­awayo-Vic­to­ria Falls.

Gov­ern­ment said the award­ing of ten­ders shall be lim­ited to one lot per ten­der “in order to spread and min­imise risk of fail­ing to com­plete the fea­si­bil­ity study”.

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