Crystabel Chikayi, Features Reporter
THE deplorable state of the country’s roads continues to be on the agenda of many meetings yet little or nothing is being done to rehabilitate them.
Tarred roads have big, gaping potholes, some which have deteriorated into gullies.
So dangerous have the roads become that motorists often ram into each other as they try to avoid the potholes.
Recently, 14 members of the same family died when a haulage truck hit a pothole and jackknifed, resulting in the trailer colliding with a kombi the family was travelling on.
In another incident, a Bulawayo man died instantly when a vehicle he was driving landed on his head and crushed it after he was thrown out of the car when he swerved to avoid a pothole.
Many have continued to die violently in accidents as a result of the country’s bad roads.
The Pumula-Mazwi Road is one such road whose deplorable state has continued to deteriorate by the day.
“The road from Pumula through to Mazwi then Khami Prison is in a bad state. It has death holes not potholes. It was never perfect but was usable. Now, we just use the road because it’s our only connection to town but using it is a real risk,” said Mr Nicholas Dube, the chairperson of Mazwi village.
“Every time one boards a kombi from Pumula to Mazwi, they get home with back pains after being thrown back and forth countless times. It’s even worse for the elderly, the pregnant and the sick; they struggle to withstand the distance and the uneven road.”
He said it is by God’s grace that the road has so far not recorded any casualties adding that sand poachers have contributed to the dreadful state of the road.
“As if the recent rains didn’t do enough damage to the road, sand poachers flock with lorries to the already bad road and start digging off the sand from it. Now, the road has developed gullies on each side making it difficult for motorists to navigate as they risk falling to either side of the road,” said Mr Dube.
Some children of school-going age have established a niche to fill the potholes with sand and stones for a few coins.
“There’re children from Mazwi village who’re always seated by the roadside. Whenever they see a car coming their way, they stand and start filling their buckets with soil so they can fill the potholes. Drivers sometimes give them coins for their work although it’s not much to go by,” said Mr Dube.
Despite several complaints about the road to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC), he said, nothing has been done to rehabilitate it.
“I’ve told our councillor, Ephraim Ncube, and he promised to present the issue at a council meeting. We plan to write to the BCC as the Mazwi committee asking them to give us quarry so that community members can help fill the potholes,” said Mr Dube.
Authorities say they would migrate to concrete roads arguing that the traditional asphalt ones are prone to cracks and potholes.
It is said that most developed countries have since migrated from asphalt roads which require constant maintenance.
Research also shows that concrete roads are not damaged by oil leaks like asphalt roads.
Concrete roads require low maintenance and in Zimbabwe, cement is readily available as compared to bitumen which is imported from South Africa.
BCC senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu admitted that 70 percent of the roads in Bulawayo are in poor condition.
“Most of the roads have outlived their life span. The service life of our roads (flexible pavements) ranges from 15 years for local streets, to 20 years for major roads. The determination of design life is a factor of materials used, environmental conditions and traffic loading.
“To date, 70 percent of the total network is in poor condition. More than 50 percent of the roads in poor condition require immediate rehabilitation. It is approximated that $690 million is required to bring the roads to good or better condition with $69 million required per year according to our Road Condition Survey,” said Mrs Mpofu.
She said the BCC is set to rehabilitate 53,9km of roads by means of re-constructing, re-sealing, overlaying and re-gravelling.
The police on the other hand urged motorists to drive at reasonable speed considering the ghostly state of the roads.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango advised motorists to drive at 60km per hour on city roads.
“We urge motorists to be cautious on the roads. When it rains, the roads become slippery and the depth of some potholes may not be easy to see as they might be filled with water,” said Insp Simango.
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development chairman Cde Dexter Nduna said mining houses around the country should be levied a road rehabilitation tax to raise money to maintain and construct roads in the areas within their purviews.
“Part of the mining tax should be directed towards a road rehabilitation fund from the mining houses and multi-nationals so that they can resuscitate and reconstruct the roads that are within their purviews which they use on a day to day basis while moving the resources they’re extracting from the mines,” said Cde Nduna.
“We’re aware of the degradation of road infrastructure. We need to utilise money derived from road user fees for road reconstruction and rehabilitation. A case in point will be parking fees tendered to local authorities; they’re being used for all other issues except road rehabilitation. Billboard fees need to be remitted for reconstruction of roads,” he said.