Walter Nyamukondiwa Kariba Bureau
The Government will appoint at least six contractors to work on the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Harare-Chirundu highway beginning January as the Second Republic ups the ante in the development of infrastructure along the region’s North-South Corridor where trade is booming.
Contractors working on the upgrading of the Beitbridge-Harare Road are likely to be given a fresh mandate and are being pushed to expedite works so that they can move to the Harare-Chirundu stretch.
The highway has outlived its design lifespan, has bad patches characterised by potholes and broken edges which make it difficult for vehicles to pass safely. It also needs widening.
To that end, Government is in the process of identifying a contractor to undertake preservation works in the interim to ensure the road remains usable.
Using local resources, the upgrading programme of the Chirundu Highway is expected to follow the same template used on the Beitbridge-Harare Highway.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Permanent Secretary Engineer Theodius Chinyanga said Government was aware of the bad state of the highway and was moving to rehabilitate it in the interim.
“We are aware as a Ministry (Transport and Infrastructure Development) and Government that the highway is in a bad state,” said Eng Chinyanga.
“The actions that we are taking are just preservation efforts to ensure that the highway remains trafficable. The road requires total rehabilitation and upgrading. It has outlived its design life.”
A contractor is being identified to conduct spot reseal, pothole patching and edge-break repairs.
While the road has outlived its design lifespan, the increased volume of traffic, especially heavy trucks has accelerated the deterioration.
At least 1000 vehicles, the bulk of them trucks, use the highway everyday.
Increased economic activity in the country and the region where heavy duty equipment is moving northwards while bulk materials, including minerals, are shifting down south.
Zimbabwe is a vital cog in the Southern African region’s transportation network, servicing the North-South Corridor.
Eng Chinyanga said on its part, Zimbabwe is targeting a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023 while other sectors of the economy are maintaining a sharp upward trajectory.
With the energy industry also growing and further expanding owing to increased appetite by a morphing industry, a solid road and rail infrastructure is a prerequisite.
The transport bureaucrat said the 360km stretch would be divided into six sections, worked on by different contractors to expedite the construction.
“Currently, we are pushing the contractors on the Beitbridge-Harare Highway to quicken up their pace so that they give us an opportunity to move to the North of that corridor earlier than anticipated because of the state of the road.
“Let me assure the nation that come mid-2023 or thereabout we should be moving to the North Corridor,” he said.
Motorists have been complaining of the poor state of the highway particular after Karoi towards Chirundu.
The most affected areas are around Nyamakate, Vuti and Marongora.
At least 22km have been rehabilitated and widened on parts of the Marongora stretch of the highway.
However, the remaining parts have been eroded, remain treacherously steep with sharp curves which have seen trucks hurtling out of control and plunging into the valleys on the Zambezi Escarpment.
“This is an integral trade route and we welcome any moves to facilitate smooth movement of goods and people.
“Apart from trade, there is also tourism which can only be smoothened by a good road network,” said motorist and tour operator Mr Cephas Shonhiwa.
Truck driver Mr Ali Metina said the road was in need of urgent attention as several trucks were being involved in accidents.
“The Zimbabwean route is shorter and there is so much to see and enjoy along the way for us drivers. This development will go a long way in ensuring that the time spent on the road is reduced,” said Mr Metina from Mozambique.
Kariba resident Mr Sampson Kofi welcomed the development saying it would reduce the amount of time spent on the road.