via US$400m city roads deal in the pipeline | The Herald December 26, 2013 by Innocent Ruwende and Elita Chikwati
Harare City Council is set to partner a South African company in a US$400 million deal to rehabilitate and maintain roads in the capital.
The broader infrastructure plan includes mass light rail, bus and taxi transport systems.
The city’s environmental management committee has approved the proposal and tasked Town Clerk Dr Tendai Mahachi to conclude negotiations with the South African company, NEO Capital.
Dr Mahachi is expected to have signed an agreement by December 31.
Harare City has been sued on several occasions by motorists whose vehicles were damaged by potholed roads, while other road users generally complain about the poor state of roads.
The city has about 4 000km of tarred roads, with a significant proportion of the network in woeful condition due to lack of maintenance coupled with a sharp increase in the number of cars in Harare.
Council’s environmental management committee has recommended the creation of a special purpose vehicle to manage the deal.
To this end, some councillors have proposed the formation of the Harare Roads Development Company in which council would hold 51 percent and NEO Capital 49 percent. The investor is expected to raise funding for the project against a 30-year concession at repayment of US$15 million per year.
This means the city will pay back US$450 million, translating to a US$50 million return to NEO Capital at about US$1.67 million per annum.
The repayment will be guaranteed by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development through the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration account and the city’s billboards account.
The Zinara account will cover US$5 million annually while the billboards account will cater for the US$10 million yearly balance.
City director for engineering services, Engineer Phillip Pfukwa recently told councillors that the proposal — the Harare Roads Rehabilitation and Maintenance Plan — would see the development of the Greater Harare Transportation Master Plan.
It includes the roads infrastructure, a mass light-rail transit system, a bus rapid transport system and a taxi system.
The second phase of implementation will see the development and implementation of the e-TAG system, which incorporates and integrates vehicle management systems like vehicle licence, electronic monitoring and a vehicle database.
The city expects to get increased licence fees through the introduction of e-TAG.
Harare City wants US$50 million for road maintenance and repair next year.
Presenting the budget recently, council’s chairperson for the finance and development committee, Mr Allan Markham, said the 2014 budget provided for total capacitation of the road maintenance sections in the department of Engineering Services.
This would be achieved by putting in place fully capacitated zonal teams.
“In that regard, over $50 million will be required in the budget year. Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) will be approached to contribute substantially towards the envisaged programme,” he said.
According to the budget, the city has approximately 4 000km of mostly surfaced roads which are in a poor state due to lack of timely maintenance.
“You are most probably aware that vehicle licence fees are ordinarily used to fund road maintenance programmes. However, funds coming to the city from Zinara by way of vehicle licence fees have progressively gone down to a point where, in 2013 the city is yet to receive the first installment of its allocation,” said Mr Markham.
The Herald was unable to get a full schedule of Zinara’s 2013 disbursements from the roads agency by the time of publishing.
The budget statement states that the city received a pothole patcher from Zinara worth US$550 000 and other materials valued at approximately US$200 000.
“The disbursements remain a far cry from what the city expects from the authority if the vehicle population in Harare is anything to go by,” read the budget statement.
Harare City Council has acquired pothole patching machines but progress on the ground has been slow.
An official with the council said the machines have been used to fill-in potholes in areas such as Highlands, Greendale and Mandara among others.
The city is working towards regain its “Sunshine City” status and achieving its goal of being a world class city by 2025.
Potholed roads have in the past landed Harare City in the courts.
The Supreme Court paved the way for motorists to sue the council for damages caused to their cars by potholes on municipal roads when in 2010 it ruled in favour of former Stanbic Bank boss Ms Pindie Nyandoro whose Mercedes-Benz was damaged by poor roads in 2007.
Ms Nyandoro won the civil case in 2007 and council was ordered to her pay Z$1,6 million.
However, council appealed to the Supreme Court contesting the ruling and the damages were never paid.