‘Impressive progress on roads’
Let me start by saying that we just had a two-day workshop with our parastatals and roads department in the ministry, and the department responsible for VID (Vehicle Inspection Department).
We had all our provincial engineers at this workshop and we got a report from them regarding the state of road repairs across the country.
I must say that (the) progress that has been made is impressive.
Within the next 100 days, we will be announcing sections of roads which have been completed. There is no doubt that we need considerable amounts of money to do this. Some of the money is available, but we need much more to ensure the state of road infrastructure in Zimbabwe is of a higher level.
The quality of roads that have been attended to, those driving in these roads can testify that they are of very higher standards. We are going to be considering various models to raise money to ensure that we quickly move with development on all the roads across the country.
Of course, we will look at all the models, look at people who can develop the roads and put tolls on that. We will also look at those who come with finances of all sorts and we think that we should be able to achieve capitalisation of these roads as soon as we have clarity on the needs of the entire network.
I cannot say exactly the specific figures for the simple reason that I didn’t add up the figures that are needed for each section, but I think we have enough work to take us to maybe the first quarter of next year, and I think we will have improved a lot of roads in that regard.
We will be engaging the Ministry of Finance for possible funding on these roads.
In the past, we tended to be more outward looking in terms of getting finance for roads, but we are going to be very strict in terms of the costing for the roads, we want to ensure that what can be done by Zimbabweans should be done; what can be supplied internally, should be supplied internally.
There are a variety of reasons for this, we want to save on foreign currency, we also want to help Zimbabwean companies and individuals to create employment, so we are going to be much focused on costing of the roads with a view that our local people will also participate in this. We think that this will give us a great deal of savings, and that will help us to improve the roads much faster and effectively.
I think we need, as a country, to be very careful when we negotiate contracts. We need to be very granular in terms of examining the companies that we are dealing with, their track records and that type of thing.
Indeed, there are some roads which have been constructed and they have been swept away.
That speaks to a number of things, not only the quality of material that has been used, but also supervision of these projects by Government, so we are going to be very strict on our officials to ensure that the quality of work is being done up to the required standards.
We are also going to be very strict with contractors who give us slipshod work and we will make every effort to recover what Government paid out to such companies.
Let me say that this is one of the roads that is of critical national importance for a variety of reasons. Obviously, there has been a lot of carnage on this road because of its state and I think that processes for it getting repaired are more than a year old now, and we have lost one year, so I have just come from a meeting now where we are going to be interrogating the causes for these delays.
We would like to ensure that we deliver this project by commencing as soon as possible.
There seems to have been a gridlock with regard to the commencement of the road works and so we are going, in the coming weeks, to be meeting the financiers as well as our own officials with a view to ensuring that we, as soon as possible, start work on that road in the coming weeks.
I am not able to give the date because that meeting has not taken place yet, but I can assure you that it’s a matter with which we are seized with in a very serious manner for the reasons that I have mentioned.
The fact that it’s a road that will enable us to access the international market and also even local markets means it’s a very important road that we need to attend to.
We have looked at each road and we want to understand from our engineers in various provinces the importance of the roads and their impact. They are compiling the statistics, they are not immediately available, this is important for us in terms of prioritisation of the roads.
There are areas which are very desperate, there are certain roads which maybe can be put at the tail-end, and there are roads that will impact the tourism where we want to be impactful by ensuring that tourists that will come in are able to access those roads.
We have got the Kanyemba Road, for example. We want roads that will enable us to get into Mozambique and into Zambia at the same time, so we are also going to be engaging our neighbours to ensure that there is congruence in our transportation policies and we agree to go forward with regards to specific roads.
National Railways of Zimbabwe
Yes, one of my responsibilities is to be hands-on, so in the workshop that I mentioned, which started on Wednesday (September 19) and ended on September 20, we engaged both our boards and management with regards to the delays in developing the infrastructure.
We understand that there are issues concerning Transnet, which is the partner. There are governance issues, transformations that are taking place there, they are costing us a great deal, so we will be looking into the future of those arrangements with a view to ensuring that we try and fast-track progress as much as possible.
So, in terms of my contribution to this, we are ensuring that we have got an agreement that is enforceable; that allows work to start as soon as is reasonably practicable.
If the current arrangements are not working, we have got to look at alternatives so the initial step is that we are going to be meeting the interested parties, the financiers and Transnet, together with NRZ management and representatives of their board, to come up with a definitive position in the next few weeks and agree to continue or whether not to continue.
But what we know is we must have a binding agreement which is capable of implementation with regards to the railways.
We are going to re-evaluate some of these contracts because our observation is that in the past, maybe the contracts haven’t been strictly examined to see whether there is sufficient protection of the national interest of Zimbabwe.
But once we go through that and we understand the cost structure of the work that needs to be done, we will then be able to agree with whoever has been selected to do the work – whether it’s the current partner or another entity – with a view to ensuring that the national interest of Zimbabwe is protected.
We need to give the public a timeline, it is very important.
As you know, the arrangement is that Zinara gives the local authorities funds. We are going to be looking at the audits, myself and the Minister (Joel Matiza), we haven’t had the opportunity to go through the audit reports.
We want to see that local authorities are actually doing this work and they are acquitting the funds they have been given so that more funds can be made available.
So we are not going to allow the local authorities to hold us back where they are not able or have not done what is required.
Government will step in and take measures that will ensure that the roads are done. Where funds have been abused, there will be consequences for people who would have engaged in that. So we will be able, like I said, in the next few weeks, to give you a list of the road sections we will be opening.
Well, I have just come from a meeting now where we were seized with the issues at Air Zimbabwe. As you know, there is no governance structure there at the moment and there is an administrator who has been appointed to deal with those issues relating to Air Zimbabwe.
Our intention is to ensure that all our planes are airborne and that Air Zimbabwe comes back to profitability.
We have given tasks to the board and to management and we are looking at legacy issues.
The debts that have been there to ensure that the balance sheet has been cleaned up, but profitability is going to be key. We think this is achievable. We think that the routes are profitable and so in the next few weeks, we are going to be making public pronouncements regarding Air Zimbabwe.
The new team in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure is a game-changer on its own.
We are not going to accept empty promises, we have made that point very clear.
We are going to give tasks to both the board and management.
We are going to give them targets, which if not achieved, there are going to be consequences within the board and management.
So I can assure you in terms of management and oversight, we are going to ensure that there is good corporate governance and the conduct by the airline and the management board is in accordance with the legal requirements of the corporate governance so that we have results.
If there are no results that are satisfactory to Government, we will take action.
Preparatory work is also happening. That’s something that we need and have to do in light of the fact that Government has taken the approach that says that the skies are open and clearly there is considerable interest in other airlines to come into our air space, and it means we have to take a long-term view of our airport and right-size to ensure that various sizes of airplanes can come in. I think it is important. The fact that Government has taken the attitude that it is going to engage with other countries makes it desirable and necessary to have a bigger airport that allows bigger planes to land.
At the moment, we have this problem that certain sizes of planes may not be able to land at our airport, so it is really a very necessary thing. It is not elitist.
As a result of Government’s policy of foreign engagement, this means we will have a lot of people coming to Zimbabwe.
Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Mr Fortune Chasi recently had a wide-ranging interview with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN). Below, we publish the transcript of the full interview