Source: Editorial Comment – Beitbridge Highway: Time for real action | The Herald 14 OCT, 2019
The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway is by any imagination one of the busiest road traffic nerves of Southern Africa, annually moving essential goods worth billions of dollars between the north and south of the continent and beyond.
Two border posts which the highway serves, Beitbridge and Chirundu, are extremely busy at any time and intractable on holidays.
So heavy is the traffic from feeder roads as it snakes up and down, sideways and little everywhere else from Limpopo to Zambezi, past major cities and towns.
There is no doubt the highway is not only a source of life, but life itself.
Suffice to say, the road now needs an upgrade, not a simple one, but a huge overhaul that takes into cognisance the ever increasing volume of traffic and goods; an upgrade that takes into consideration a grand future; an upgrade that seeks to create a road that can sustain the weight of traffic for many years.
The importance of this highway in the absence of complementing rail network, cannot be overemphasised. It has carried the burden to breaking point and now needs refurbishment.
It is fact, not fiction, that over the years, some parts of the road have given in to the weight of goods in transit and gotten damaged and a danger to goods and people.
Again, it is fact, not fiction, that the Government of Zimbabwe has been alive to the need to resurface and in some patches reconstruct the highway for the safe and ease passage of goods and people.
Government has been struggling to raise funds for once-off works and has come up with a strategy to spread the works among several companies.
It is laudable that recently the Government appointed five companies that will each, get a first bite of 20km, after which the Government will decide to extend to each company, another stretch, if it does good work on the first bite.
While this speeds up work on the road, there is need to standardise the process and come up with rules to achieve uniformity and compatibility.
But what worries us is the timing.
The five companies come on board at the onset of the rainy season and our sound knowledge of road construction informs us that, it is pretty too difficult to construct a road under intermittent heavy downpours.
That means there is little time between now and the rainy season, given that the Meteorological Services Department forecasts an early rainy season.
Recently, the Government released $150 million for companies involved in road construction and we hope that the companies will move to their work stations and start work.
We believe, the rains can catch up with them after doing some work.
Given the ever-increasing cost of construction material, any delay will result in the actual work being done after the rainy season, by which time, the value of the money will have been eroded by inflation.
The advantage of splitting the road works between many companies is that it speeds up the process as they work on many parts of the road simultaneously.
The other advantage is that the companies compete to do the best job in order to get the next job.
However, there is need for strong monitoring, to achieve the required standard.
It should be understood that with the growing international business, the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway will host increased traffic of heavy goods in transit, hence the need to work on it for a sustainable long life.
In the end, Zimbabwe should come up with a well-constructed highway, good enough to service the high traffic volume that has defined its importance, its existence and its meaning to the world.