THE ongoing upgrade of the first 6,5km of a 21km stretch along Makuti-Chirundu Road — a vital route on the North-South Corridor linking the country to Sadc, Comesa and East Africa — is progressing well.
The project initially hit a snag when contractors failed to secure river sand after Hurungwe Rural District Council (HRDC) demanded sand abstraction fees. However, Government officials in Hurungwe broke the impasse after they indicated the project had been granted national project status.
“The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development indicated that the project had national project status and we agreed that they could go ahead while negotiations are underway, because the community has to benefit as well from this economic activity,” said HRDC chief executive officer Mr Luke Kalavina.
When The Sunday Mail visited the site, workmen were using heavy equipment to chisel part of the Zambezi Escarpment.
Financed under a US$21 million grant from Japan, the project covers the stretch from Marongora to Hellsgate — commonly known as the Tsetse Boom Gate — and involves constructing climbing lanes and smoothening sharp curves.
It also includes construction of a 70-metre wide road, 35 metres on each side, to ensure fast movement of vehicles, including trucks transporting equipment and other goods to and from ports such as Durban and Beira.
Hairpin curves and steep gradients on the construction stretch have resulted in serious accidents and delays due to slow-moving traffic as loaded trucks struggle with the terrain.
Preparations to construct safety barriers are underway, with two steps being built on the mountain sides on the road, while concrete structures are being embedded in the ground to strengthen the road. Drainage systems were also being installed before road construction begins.
Engineers from Japan and those from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development are working on the project.
Government has prioritised infrastructure development, with at least five major road projects being supported in each province every year. The Makuti-Chirundu project, which is expected to be complete by year-end, has already created employment for hundreds of people. Meanwhile, work on the first 10km section of the Karoi-Binga Road, which is being funded by Government, is almost complete, with only priming and laying of tar remaining for the last kilometre.
Gravelling of some sections, including from Magororo to Sanyati Bridge, has already been done by another contractor, which is expected to help in significantly covering more ground.
Tarring is now at Zvipani Business Centre.
Contractors, who include the District Development Fund (DDF), are waiting for priming material to finalise the last kilometre.
“The project is progressing well but intermittent challenges in getting some vital material at times has resulted in delays,” said a worker at one of the contracted companies.
Ward 25 Councillor Edmore Nyamukumba said the road project had prompted the local authority to move a motion to give Zvipani Business Centre Growth Point status.
Mrs Tendai Nebiri of Matau Village said the road would result in reduced costs associated with transporting produce to the market.
“This development has seen transport to our area improving and the gravelling that has taken place has ensured availability of transport to Siakobvu, although it will be much cheaper when it is fully tarred,” she said. It costs $50 from Karoi to Zvipani and $150 to Siakobvu, a distance of about 160km.
The fares are expected drop markedly as more transporters ply the route.