Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
GOVERNMENT has released $95 million for Matabeleland South Province’s road maintenance programme to improve the province’s road network, a project that will run up to the end of the year.

Under the programme, the District Development Fund (DDF) will also construct three bridges and three piped drifts.

The four-month infrastructure development initiative that is in line with Vision 2030 – designed to transform the country into a middle-class economy – is solely funded by Government.

The vision entails incremental improvements on diverse sections of the economy that will eventually dovetail into the national masterplan to improve people’s livelihoods.

Speaking at the commissioning of Masholomoshe-Umzingwane Road in Ward One in Gwanda on Monday by Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Abednico Ncube, which marked the launch of the programme, DDF Matabeleland South provincial coordinator Mr Moment Malandu said the programme will run from August 1 to December 31.

“The main objective of the project is to maintain the entire DDF road network in Matabeleland South Province so that it becomes trafficable and also construct three bridges and three piped drifts. The total cost of the project is $95 million which we received from Government.

“Under the programme we will conduct motorised grading on 967 kilometres at a cost of $30 million, towed grading on all DDF roads with a total network of 2 484 at a total cost of $25 million as well as construct three bridges and three piped drifts at a cost of $40 million. So far, we have started motorised grading in five districts in the province. We have also started towed grading across the whole province. We started on August 1 and this programme will run till the end of the year,” said Mr Malandu.

He said the province’s road network had been damaged overtime due to heavy rains and movement of vehicular traffic. He said routine maintenance has been irregular due to inadequate funding.

Mr Malandu said they were facing challenges in working during the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic as some tasks required workers to combine efforts thereby violating Covid-19 regulations. He said it was also costly to provide workers with adequate PPEs and outsourcing of contractors was costly. Mr Malandu said there was need for DDF to be recapitalised to ensure scheduled routine maintenance.

Also speaking at the same event, Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Abednico Ncube said the road maintenance programme had come at a crucial time when there was need for trafficable roads due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

“The spread of the virus appears to be increasing and threatening to encompass even the rural areas. That calls for trafficable roads to all corners of the province to enable health personnel and other Covid-19 frontline workers to travel swiftly in mitigating or responding to the pandemic.

“Our rural communities are also receiving food under the drought relief programme which also calls for good roads to enable quick delivery of consignments.

“Road maintenance and construction of bridges will also bring huge socio-economic benefits to the province moreso under the devolution programme. Communities and farmers will be able to access major markets for their farm produce including livestock,” he said.

Cde Ncube said the road maintenance programme was a manifestation of DDF’s mandate to uplift the living standards of the rural folk and enable them access to various facilities. He said Government envisages a scenario where every community in the country is linked to the other as well as to urban or service centres.

Also speaking during the same event Chief Masuku said there was need for Government to avail funds to other road authorities as well to ensure that not only DDF roads were maintained but the entire road network in the province. — @DubeMatutu