Government has completed rehabilitating and upgrading the first 100 kilometres of the 584km long Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway.
When complete, the highway which will have eight toll plazas, will result in increased and more efficient movement of cargo and passenger travel for the benefit of Zimbabwe and the Sadc region.
Projected to cost US$650 million, the State-funded project will be key in attaining Vision 2030, which seeks to transform the country into an upper middle-income economy.
An additional 100km is set to be completed by the end of this year and Government projects that the entire project will be finished by 2022 if contracted companies complete 200km every year.
The modernisation of the highway has been included in the Comesa-ECA-SADC Tripartite and the African Union Programme for Regional Corridor Development.
Five local companies are constructing the road which stretches further to Chirundu and will help link Zimbabwe and South Africa with the rest of the continent. The companies are Bitumen World, Fossil Contracting, Masimba Construction, Exodus and Company and Tensor Systems.
In July, the Government allocated the five companies 20km each which have now been successfully completed.
The first 100km section of the road covers Mashonaland East province on which Tensor Systems is undertaking the rehabilitation works, while Masimba Construction is responsible for road works on the section covering the Midlands province.
Bitumen World is responsible for Matabeleland South province which covers the Bubi area.
Two contractors were assigned to work on the Masvingo Province section, with Fossil Contracting responsible for the Masvingo-Chatsworth stretch, while Exodus and Company is taking care of the Masvingo-Maringire areas.
Speaking during a strategic meeting in Bulawayo yesterday, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said the companies had exhibited great workmanship in the first 100km which is expected to see the road being navigable for the next 20 years.
The project, he said, had created employment opportunities and helped locals acquire skills on road infrastructure which will go a long way in the development of Zimbabwe.
“The 100km progress on the Harare-Masvingo- Beitbridge highway is a success that we would like to attribute to President Emmerson Mnangagwa whose insight helped achieve the first phase of the project in record time,” said Minister Matiza.
“I would like to thank the President for supporting the biggest initiative ever in this country in terms of using local talent and resources for road infrastructure.”
Minister Matiza said in engaging locals, the Government had also saved a lot of foreign currency which can be used in other developmental projects.
“With the insight from the President we opted on having our own engineers and contractors getting the opportunity to excel and create employment for others. The standard is very high and we are proud it was done by our locals,” said the Minister.
He added that Covid-19 had affected the completion of other projects but the Ministry was picking itself up.
“We intend to finish an additional 100 kilometres by the end of this year. Our aim is to complete 200km every year so by 2022 we would have finished the road. We had plans to work on quite a number of roads but because of Covid-19 resources had to be channelled elsewhere to save lives,” he added.
Minister Matiza said the Ministry was working on completing its projects despite Covid-19 and also coming up with strategic plans to continue operating in the event there is another crisis.
“We just received some funding from the Treasury to complete some of our outstanding projects in the provinces including Matabeleland before the rainy season. We have our engineers working on the priming and we will use the resources we just received from the Treasury to do some work so that we are not forced to work from scratch after the rainy season,” he said.
Minister Matiza said the Ministry had also come up with the Zimbabwe Airports Company whose sole responsibility is to ensure that local airports meet regional and international standards.
“The organisation will be solely responsible for airport infrastructure management and development of the new airports. Nowadays we have sophisticated airports and as a country we need to be in tune with the developments of regional international airports in terms of security and infrastructure,” he said.-@thamamoe