Africa Moyo recently in BUBI

Infrastructure development is a key enabler for productivity and sustainable development, and the progress on the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway is expected to result in the increased movement of cargo and travel on the route for the benefit of Zimbabwe and the SADC region, President Mnangagwa has said.

He said this on Friday while commissioning 32.2km of the completed stretches of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway under Phase One of the rehabilitation, upgrading and widening project.

“A quality, safe and efficient road infrastructure equally helps in promoting and facilitating the growth of other sectors such as tourism, agriculture and mining, among other sectors.

“Hence, our profound celebration that this important national project, with a regional impact, is finally underway,” he said.

The Government and regional institutions are collaborating to improve service delivery through the expansion of road infrastructure to integrate and increase intra-African trade to bolster the African Continental Free Trade Area.

President Mnangagwa said the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway project will result in Zimbabwe leveraging its central geographical location in SADC to become a regional logistics hub.

The modernisation of the highway has been included in Comesa-ECA-SADC Tripartite and the African Union Programme for Regional Corridor Development.

Five local companies are constructing the critical highway, which stretches to Chirundu and helps link Zimbabwe and South Africa with the rest of the continent.

The previous administration tried on several occasions to revamp the highway but the processes suffered many false starts, and it took the pragmatic Second Republic to cancel the US$1,9 billion tender awarded to Geiger International of Austria, after it failed to provide proof of funding and demonstrate its capacity to construct roads.

Local resources have now been deployed on the project and incredibly, it costs US$650 million, resulting in savings of US$1.3 billion, from Geiger’s quotation.

The local companies Bitumen World, Fossil Contracting, Masimba Construction, Exodus and Company, and Tensor Systems have exhibited great workmanship which is expected to see the road being navigable for the next 20 years.

Under Phase One of the project, the highway will be expanded from the present 7 metres to 12.5 metres width in line with the Southern Africa Transport and Communications standards.

The stretch from Harare to Beatrice will be dualised, then 20km either side of Chivhu, and another 20km either side of Masvingo, and lastly 20km from Beitbridge.

Phase Two will see the dualisation of the entire road.

President Mnangagwa wants the contractors to complete 200km of the road by end of year, such that the entire 584km road project will be finished by 2022, and efforts shift to the Harare-Chirundu road.

Bitumen World has completed 16km of its first 20km stretch, with the other 4km set to be completed tomorrow, while Fossil Contracting has completed 9km.

Other companies are at priming stage.

Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza, is happy with the “tremendous progress to date”, but hinted that more needed to be done.

The ministries of Transport, and Finance and Economic Development, together with the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders, are in the process of extending contracts for the five contractors by 20km to meet the target of 200km this year.

Minister Matiza said $2.4 billion has been budgeted for the road project this year, and there was a possibility for review in line with the obtaining economic development.

Contractors have been encouraged to take advantage of reduced traffic flows due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to increase the momentum.

The modernisation of the Beitbridge Border Post is expected to complement the upgrade of the highway, arguably the busiest post in the region.

Transport Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza, said there has been “tremendous progress to date” in the rehabilitation of the road, but warned there was a long way to go, although it was achievable.

Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Abednigo Ncube, thanked President Mnangagwa for “responding to our cry” for the road’s rehabilitation and wants the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Road to be attended to as well.

Matabeleland South’s economy is anchored on mining, farming, tourism, energy and irrigation development.

Bitumen World CEO, Mr Andre Zietsman, told The Herald that his firm had received considerable support from Government and believes they will get more projects in the next phases.

Several Government officials and traditional leaders including Chief Matibe, attended the event.