Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
THE Government has secured a $1 billion credit line to kick-start dualisation of the Beitbridge–Harare Highway and is now looking for an additional $900 million for work on the Harare-Chirundu Highway, Senators have heard.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said about $2,1 billion was required to complete the full dualisation to mitigate road carnages.
He was responding to questions from Senators on Thursday about what Government was doing to improve the Beitbridge–Harare Highway and the Harare–Chirundu Highway in the wake of 20 lives lost in a bus-haulage truck accident this week.
The accident, which injured several other passengers, occurred when a South Africa-bound Proliner Bus side-swiped the haulage truck near Mvuma along the Harare-Beitbridge Highway.
“The main problem which we were facing is that we did not have enough money to construct or repair these roads,” said Dr Gumbo. “Consequently, we have had to borrow money from outside. We borrowed an amount of $998 million, which is nearly $1 billion and we are saying, we need to go to Chirundu and we are looking for a further $886 million, which is another billion dollars.
“We may not have that money as a nation, but we have friends who are prepared to lend us that kind of money and we are saddened by people who die on our roads.”
Dr Gumbo did not disclose who had offered the credit line to Government for the dualisation project.
Geiger International from Austria was contracted to construct the Beitbridge-Harare Highway under a 25-year Build Operate and Transfer model.
The firm is expected to commence work this year following the signing of an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract with Government last year.
The project, on Zimbabwe’s busiest road and gateway to neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Zambia and Malawi, is expected to take up to three years to complete.
On resuscitation of National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe, Dr Gumbo said the bad balance sheet for the two parastatals hampered efforts to get a partner or secure lines of credit.
“Unfortunately, the accounting system or the balance books of the National Railways have been so badly managed that we do not have any partner who may come into the country and gladly come into partnership with us after observing it,” he said.
“Now, we are in the process of sourcing for partners who can help us resuscitate the transport and the railway system in Zimbabwe.”
Dr Gumbo said they were finalising modalities to have Government assume the debt for Air Zimbabwe.
In a related matter, the Finance and Economic Development Minister said they would engage South Africa to persuade it to accept settlement of payments in rand, as opposed to the United States dollar.
“If they sell to us, the South Africans do not want to be paid in rand, they want to be paid in US dollars because they want to use the US dollar to also buy from other countries where the rand is not accepted,” said Minister Chinamasa while responding to questions from legislators.
He said foreign currency shortage was hampering the Government from procuring more swiping machines which are expected to go a long way in mitigating cash shortages.
“Right now, throughout the country, we have 32 000 to 33 000 point of sale machines and we still need more,” he said.