Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
PRESIDENT Mugabe will next month commission the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu highway which has become a death trap with a spate of fatal accidents with the most recent one claiming 21 lives.
The latest accident saw 21 people burnt to death when a South Africa-bound Proliner bus they were travelling in sideswiped with a haulage truck and caught fire at Nyamatikiti River near Chaka in Mvuma on Wednesday night. The groundbreaking ceremony was initially scheduled for 12 April but was postponed to next month.
In an interview, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said the groundbreaking ceremony would be done in Mvuma next month. Dr Gumbo said the works on the 897-kilometre stretch from Chirundu to Beitbridge could gobble an estimated $2,7 billion and is expected to be completed within the next three years.
“The first kilometres from Beitbridge Border Post were awarded to local companies and work has already started. They are resurfacing and widening the road. For the dualisation we have awarded the contracts to Austrian Construction Company Geiger Pvt Ltd and Chinese Company China Harbour (Chec). In the first week of May we are going to be commissioning the reconstruction of this road and there will be a groundbreaking ceremony where we have invited President Mugabe to officiate.
“We are prioritising this road as the Government because it is the busiest road in Southern Africa and Beitbridge Border Post is the busiest port in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
Dr Gumbo said the stretch would be divided into eight segments so as to speed up the dualisation process.
“We will segment it into five segments between Beitbridge and Harare and three between Harare and Chirundu so that we quickly finish the dualisation work. We are going to make a ring road surrounding Harare. We are also looking forward to dualising Beitbridge-Victoria Falls and Harare-Nyamapanda. We are expecting the work to be complete in three years’ time,” he said.
The project was once stalled due to a High Court challenge by Zim Highways Consortium, a grouping of local firms that had initially been awarded the tender in 2002 but allegedly failed to raise the required capital. This resulted in the withdrawal of the tender and in turn the consortium approached the courts for relief. However, the dispute between Government and the consortium was resolved last year with Secretary for Transport and Infrastructural Development Munesu Munodawafa, saying the project was expected to proceed.
The rehabilitation and dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highways has been cited as one of the major projects under Government’s Zim-Asset economic turnaround blueprint. The highway has recorded a lot of accidents due to the huge volumes of traffic and dualisation has been identified as a long-term solution to the problem.