Source: Roads made in hell | The Financial Gazette February 2, 2017
DRIVING in Zimbabwe roads now requires one to acquire new skills of negotiating potholes. Drivers also need the nerves of steel to endure the gruelling driving experience which, if not well executed, can result in serious damage to one’s car or even an accident.
Torrential rains which have mercilessly battered the southern African region over the past weeks have left Zimbabwe’s fragile roads riddled with crater-like potholes that resemble an aftermath of a massive sporadic missile attack.
These are now like roads made in hell! It is befitting that some of these roads have been declared a state of disaster.
Statistics show that at least 80 percent of the country’s 97 000-kilometre road network now requires a major overhaul.
The poor state of the roads characterised by potholes and ragged sharp edges is significantly contributing to the carnage on Zimbabwe’s roads which claims at least five lives per day.
This is according to 2015 statistics from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe.
The country’s major highways have for long raised the ire of travellers because of their poor state. But recently attention has also shifted to urban roads that have deteriorated and are now posing a serious threat to road users.
Observers attribute the poor state of urban roads to failure by the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) to disburse adequate funds for their rehabilitation.
ZINARA was established in terms of the Road Act (Chapter 13:18) in 2002 with the aim of enhancing the road network system throughout the country.
Its core mandate is that of fixing road user charges and collecting such charges or any other revenue for the road fund, in consultations with the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
After collecting revenue, the parastatal is supposed to remit funds to local authorities who then ensure that roads around their areas are maintained.
Local authorities have the primary responsibility of repairing roads in terms of the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29.15), Second Schedule section 198, paragraph 19 (1).
ZINARA collects in excess of US$5,5 million per month from the 26 tollgates dotted around the country and an additional US$130 million annually from road access fees, vehicle licensing, transit fees and the fuel levy among other revenue streams.
Government will soon release a Road Condition Survey assessing the state of the country’s roads and what is required to bring them up to standard.
At over 85 percent complete, the survey being carried out by the Department of Roads, the District Development Fund, rural district councils and urban councils at a cost of US$1,7 million, might fail to capture the exact situation on the ground given that the roads are deteriorating daily. Carried out after every five to 10 years, the survey is meant to provide accurate statistics to guide policy makers in implementing developmental projects.
Acknowledging the bad state of the country’s roads, Transport Minister, Joram Gumbo said a total of US$5 billion is required to rehabilitate the dilapidated road network.
“It is not a secret that most of our road network has outlived its useful lifespan and we would need to expend approximately more than US$5 billion to rehabilitate the country’s roads. But the revenue that ZINARA is mobilising, which is less than US$200 million per annum, is not sufficient to cover the maintenance backlog. In fact, we have not surpassed the US$150 million annual collection of toll fees,” he said.
Harare City Council (HCC) spokesperson, Michael Chideme, indicated that the capital city alone requires about US$40 million from ZINARA to refurbish its roads.
“We are set to receive about US$1,2 million from ZINARA which is enough to only rehabilitate one kilometre. It’s a pity considering that roads which fall under our jurisdiction stretch well over 6 000 kilometres of which most of them are in dire need of rehabilitation,” said Chideme.
“We should not be blamed for the poor state of the roads when we have no money; give us the money and blame us later,” he added.
Gumbo has, however, challenged the HCC “to show us one road they have patched up using that (paltry) money” from ZINARA.
Gumbo is also on record, accusing other local authorities of missappropriating ZINARA funds by using the money to pay off their debts and salaries.
Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni said: “There is insincerity in that remark because they have not given us all the money in cash. Some of the help we got from ZINARA has been in kind and if they want us to show them the road patches we will definitely do that… ZINARA is the institution we must look up to for this crisis. We are out of it. In fact, in the coming two months the roads will get worse before they get better.”
ZINARA board chairman, Albert Mugabe, said HCC was not doing the right thing, given that it has so many other opportunities to generate revenue.
“The city has over 7 000 parking bays; assuming there is five hours occupation per day in a five-day week, the city generates US$8, 4 million annually in parking fees. If they invest even half of that into the goose that is laying the golden egg, Harare’s roads would improve. The city also receives revenue from billboards.
“All these and more could be used by HCC to augment what they get from ZINARA,” said Mugabe.
He added that HCC will find it difficult to access funding because of their poor credit rating.