A Country in a ‘Crisis’ Cannot Build Roads Using Local Resources

Following years of economic challenges occasioned by an assortment of factors, chief among them being the illegal Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, the Southern African country has been lagging behind in terms of infrastructure development such as roads for the past two decades. This fact has been mischievously hijacked by some of the country’s detractors to claim that Zimbabwe is in a crisis but nothing is further from the truth.

When the New Dispensation, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017, it committed its self to turn the tables and build world class roads with or without the illegal sanctions.

In the 2018 election campaign manifesto, ZANU PF pledged that if elected, it will rehabilitate roads in urban areas to acceptable standards while continually maintaining those in the rural areas.

Through the District Development Fund, ZANU PF pledged to re-gravel 300km of gravel roads and rehabilitate at least three bridges per year in each rural province. All this is under way and looking at Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts, where Cyclone Idai-induced flooding wreaked havoc on infrastructure in March last year, the target has since been surpassed.

The illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were calculated to deprive Government of the ability to build and maintain world class infrastructure for its people, which would result in ZANU PF being pushed out of power through violent protests. Notwithstanding this, Zimbabwe, has mobilised local resources to build new roads and spruce up existing major roads such the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Corridor, which is a vital trade artery linking South Africa to Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania and beyond. Government is not attending to major highways only. The Karoi-Binga road, whose first 10 kilometres have already been completed, attests to this.

The Plumtree-Mutare road project was the first of such major infrastructural projects undertaken by Government, has since been completed while the other projects are at various stages of implementation under the New Dispensation.

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, recently touring construction sites on Masvingo-Beitbridge road, noted that progress had been registered.

The firms contracted for the project are Bitumen World, Fossil Contractors, Exodus & Company, Masimba Construction and Tensor Systems. They tapped into domestic resources to carry out the work, which includes widening the road to meet international standards.

Phase two of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Corridor project involves constructing a dual carriageway for better flow of traffic on Africa’s busiest trade corridor.

An average of 200 000 travellers, 30 000 buses, 100 000 light vehicles, and 35 000 commercial trucks use Beitbridge Border Post monthly, making it Africa’s busiest inland port. Some of them proceed with the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway into the rest of Africa.

To further make the country’s roads more user friendly, government has set in motion plans to set up auxiliary road infrastructure such as dry ports and one-stop border post.

Government designated Masvingo, Bulawayo, Makuti and Mutare as the country’s customs dry ports, according to a Statutory Instrument 55 of 2020 gazetted by Prof Ncube.

“We are trying to negotiate for (a piece of land) and locate a dry port here (near the City of Masvingo). The dry port will help us decongest Beitbridge so that there is clearance of trucks and imported goods right here,” Prof Ncube said.

The customs dry ports are appointed inland facilities whereby commercial cargo may be consigned to, pending final clearance. The development of Makuti dry port is underway.

When some countries are borrowing money from regional and international financiers to construct roads and other vital infrastructure, Zimbabwe is going it alone, using local resources. The country is using homegrown solutions to address its infrastructure challenges. In fact, a Martian visitor to the country would think that Zimbabwe is in the middle of an economic boom.

Last year Zimbabwe committed over $1 billion for road construction and rehabilitation with various projects underway across the country under the 2019 Road Development Programme. Funding for this flagship project, which is the biggest road project in 20 years, is being mobilised from the two percent Intermediated Money Transfer Tax as well as the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) Infrastructure Bond.

“As we embark on our 2030 vision, which aims to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle income economy, we must construct roads which befit that status. There is quite a lot of work going on some of the projects which have been pending for a while without work going on,” Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza said during Prof Ncube’s tour.

When Zimbabwe is going alone, in August 2020, Mozambique and the African Development Bank signed a protocol agreement for a $34 million grant for the paving of the 35 km Nambungali-Roma road to facilitate trade and promote social inclusion of local communities.

On the other hand, Tanzania and Kenya inked a €345 million financing deal for road construction support with the ADB in February 2020.

In comparison to other regional countries, Zimbabwe is faring way better in terms of the road infrastructure an indicator that there is no crisis in the country. In fact, the state of most of Zimbabwe’s road infrastructure is the envy of most African countries which are not battling any economic challenges. If the country’s detractors were honest, they would agree that it is wrong to use road infrastructure as an indicator of a crisis.

According to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the road infrastructure in Southern Africa is comparatively strong. Botswana, Lesotho, and Namibia have particularly good road standards; similarly, two-thirds of the road network of South Africa and Zimbabwe remain in good condition. However, road maintenance has been neglected in some regional countries, where 90 percent of roads are deemed in fair to poor conditions.

According to The Global Economy; Roads Quality in Africa 2019 Report, Zimbabwe scored 2,8 points ahead of other regional countries. The average for 2019 based on 38 countries was 3,43 points. The highest position in the region was achieved by Namibia with 5,3 points and the lowest value was in Chad with 1,9 points which means that Zimbabwe is faring very well despite the myriad of economic challenges she is facing, which stem from the illegal sanctions imposed on her people by the West. One then wonders what the merchants of crisis mean when they claim that the state of Zimbabwe’s road infrastructure is symptomatic of a country in a crisis.

The Road quality indicator is one of the components of the Global Competitiveness Index published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF). It represents an assessment of the quality of roads in a given country based on data from the WEF Executive Opinion Survey, a long-running and extensive survey tapping the opinions of over 14 000 business leaders in 144 countries. The road quality indicator score is based on only one question. The respondents are asked to rate the roads in their country of operation on a scale from 1 (underdeveloped) to 7 (extensive and efficient by international standards). The individual responses are aggregated to produce a country score.

This proves that in terms of road infrastructure, Zimbabwe is just like other countries in the region. It is not in any form of crisis as its detractors desperately wish in order to justify regime change external interference meant to illegally unseat ZANU PF.

The purported ‘crisis’ in Zimbabwe is only in the minds of the country’s detractors.

Pardon Muzavazi is a housing development expert based in Namibia

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