By Prosper Ndlovu
President Mnangagwa yesterday exhorted Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo to expedite the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway and improve the state of other key roads in the country.
In his keynote address in Bulawayo during the reception ceremony for leased locomotives, wagons and passenger coaches under the $400 million deal between the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/Transnet Consortium, the President said an efficient transport network was a key enabler in investment attraction and economic development.
“I would like to exhort the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to expedite the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway and many other road construction and rehabilitation projects throughout the country,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Any impediments in this regard must be urgently resolved so that our people can enjoy the associated safety, convenience and efficiency of these essential public utilities.”
Tender for the $1 billion dualisation project was awarded to Geiger International and officially commissioned in May last year, but is yet to start, with indications it will commence next month. The contractor will work with Zhejiang Bayong Highway Engineering Company of China. The firm was contracted by Government to carry out the project under a 25-year build-operate-transfer (BOT) model.
The President reminded Minister Gumbo, who attended the event that the dilapidated state of Beitbridge/Chirundu Highway has caused “lots of deaths” hence the need to speed up the upgrade process. “I exhort you to expedite the dualisation of this road,” said President Mnangagwa.
He reiterated his mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business” and that as such, the speed with which the country was addressing challenges within the infrastructure and transport sector, in particular, must be in sync with this focus.
“The state and ambience of our road sides must exude a country that is ready for business. I, thus, encourage the responsible authorities to mount billboards in strategic areas along highways that communicate the vision and aspirations of our nation as espoused in this new dispensation,” said President Mnangagwa.
To that end, the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces said enhanced efficiency in the railway network will help remove the bulk cargo from the country’s roads and transfer it onto the railways.
“Hence, our road and railway projects must be complementary and concurrent where possible. The current scenario, whereby road transport is moving a lot of bulk cargo damages our roads and makes the roads unsafe and inconvenient to ordinary motorists.
“It is my sincere hope that that once the railway network has been restored to acceptable levels of efficiency, the necessary steps will be taken to move bulk cargo by rail,” said President Mnangagwa.