Helen Kadirire 14 February 2018
HARARE – The suitability and technical specifications of the six-year-old
80 motorised graders supplied to rural local authorities by the Zimbabwe
National Roads Administration (Zinara) for the upgrading of roads was
questioned in Parliament yesterday.
While the issue has remained a source of constant political bickering and
conjecture since 2014, the roads manager plunged into controversy after
asking Univern Enterprises (Private) Limited (Univern) to supply 40 more
machines – out of the initial tender – under a directive from
ex-president Robert Mugabe’s government.
Despite winning an open $8 million tender for 40 graders in 2012 and being
given a second mandate for similar equipment – under the same terms, price
and within a calendar year of the PBR 1854/10/12 award – Univern has also
taken some flak for allegedly supplying inappropriate machines after its
Chinese contractor Sany Corporation chose to include a front-dozing plate
on the earthmovers, which has elicited misconceptions that they were
actually “snow graders”.
Even, though, the Harare-based technology firm’s private-public sector
partnership with Zinara has delivered 103 000 kilometres of upgraded
rural roads since 2013 and provided another batch of bulldozers under a
June 2013 purchase order from the parastatal, vice president of the
Association of Rural District Councils of Zimbabwe Patrick Chidhakwa told
the parliamentary portfolio committee on Local Government the mistake by
Univern was costing local authorities.
“We have 60 such graders in the country and if one breaks down say in
Mudzi, you can spend two months without the machine. Their performance is
not good. They are not durable nor are they suitable for our terrain. You
cannot open new roads with them.
“We are just going with what is available. The problem is with spare parts
because Univern had the monopoly of supplying. The other issue is that the
parts are imported and that requires foreign currency,” he said.
He said the other problem with the graders was that rural councils were
not allowed to repair the machines – with the suppliers being the only
ones permitted to do so.
“The snow graders are not suitable for the country’s terrain. We hope that
it does not happen again but they are giving us problems. Had we been
consulted, we would not have accepted the snow graders. We want to be able
to buy things that are relevant to Zimbabwe.
“The $28 million that we were given by Zinara should go towards
procurement of equipment,” Chidhakwa said.
While Zinara and Univern have remained under fire for “pricing and
technical” issues over the heavy-duty equipment, it has also emerged that
the latter was chosen – on the initial 2012 deal – after beating 16 other
bidders and who had quoted prices in excess of $400 000 a unit for the
And besides being involved in the process of drawing up tender
specifications for the machines, several RDCs have come up with complaints
that the equipment was lying idle because of its unsuitability for local
conditions and just too expensive to run.