Source: Major highway project step closer to reality | The Sunday Mail August 14, 2016
Debra Matabvu and Africa Moyo
Government will this week sign a memorandum of understanding with two of the companies awarded tenders to construct the 900km Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway. The Sunday Mail understands representatives of Geiger Pvt Ltd of Austria and China Harbour Engineering Company have been in Zimbabwe since August 4, 2016 to finalise modalities. Government is also negotiating with them to ring-fence a portion of the project for local companies.
The highway has been in use for over 55 years against a 20-year lifespan.
An official in the Transport and Infrastructure Development Ministry, who preferred anonymity, said the MoU was just the first step.
“Government is set to sign an MoU with the contractors (this week) over the dualisation of that road. They have been in the country since early August, and have been meeting engineers in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.
“We say work is set to begin soon. We are at very advanced stage and are now engaging those who awarded the tender. In addition, we are negotiating for the ring-fencing of a portion of the project that will then be awarded to local construction companies to work on.”
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development Cde Dexter Nduna said Transport Minister Dr Joram Gumbo would appear before the panel tomorrow to respond to inquiries on the project.
Cde Nduna said, “We have called the minister to come to Parliament so that we find out when construction of the road would start. Unfortunately, I can’t say some of the issues we will discuss. It would be unprofessional for Minister Gumbo to learn of the questions he is going to be asked through the Press.”
It is, however, understood that the committee wants to establish if Zimbabwean companies will be sub-contracted and also gather how a local firm already got to work on 4km of the road.
A feasibility study of the project is also likely to be discussed.
Recently, the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe flighted an advertisement calling for bids to conduct the study. Prior feasibility checks completed in June 2013 established that US$1,3 billion was required to rehabilitate and dualise the Beitbridge-Harare stretch.
An additional US$883 million, according to a 2011 study, was required to link Harare and Chirundu.
A fortnight ago, Dr Gumbo told The Sunday Mail he was optimistic the study would not derail the project, and that his ministry was working closely with the IDBZ, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Finance and Economic Development Ministry and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
“There is no way the feasibility may recommend stopping the project on account of it not being feasible.
‘‘You may not have understood them (IDBZ); there is no problem with the feasibility study. The feasibility study of the road was done long back.
‘‘Don’t forget that a company called Zimbabwe Highways was awarded this road (project) during the time when the Plumtree-Harare-Mutare Highway started and there was a dispute and it did not go ahead.
“Now, we have come up with new bidders because Zim Highways withdrew their legal case from the High Court. So, there is nothing new with this road. What is new is the contractor and a new financier; so it’s a question of appreciation of what was there.”
Zim Highways, a consortium of 14 companies including Murray & Roberts, Costain Africa, Kuchi Building Construction, Tarcon, Bitcon, Joina Development Company and Southland Engineers, was awarded the contract in 2003.