HEAVY rains which pounded the country as a result of Cyclone Dineo have been both a blessing and a curse as they have left in their wake massive infrastructural damage which will require billions of dollars to repair.
On the upside, they have spawned a successful agricultural season with bumper harvests expected under the Command Agriculture Scheme. The tobacco selling season opened last week with farmers delivering tonnes of the golden leaf to the auction floors. But the rains have left a trail of destruction with roads, dams, bridges and other key infrastructure suffering under the weight of a deluge of water.
In cities and towns, the road network is a disaster with potholes, some the size of craters, littering most streets while in rural areas, entire villages have been cut off from the rest of the country by washed off bridges. Nkankezi River Bridge on the Mbalabala-Zvishavane road was spectacularly washed away, cutting off traffic from Masvingo-Bulawayo and vice versa in a poignant illustration of the toll the rains have had on the country’s infrastructure.
The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway is a death trap due to the prevalence of potholes while the Beitbridge-Harare road is also in urgent need of repair.
Recently, the nation was plunged into mourning following a horrific accident which claimed the lives of 15 people from two families near the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo. The accident happened when a haulage truck hit a massive pothole and jack-knifed before colliding with a kombi carrying mourners on their way to bury a relative in Masvingo.
Another accident in Bulawayo’s western suburbs saw the driver of a kombi dying after he swerved to avoid a pothole resulting in his vehicle overturning and crushing him. In Gweru, three members of the same family died last week after they were run over by a kombi whose driver was in the wrong lane allegedly to avoid potholes.
All these incidents indicate the urgency of the need to attend to infrastructure damage. Yesterday, our sister paper, The Sunday Mail reported that Government has secured $414,5 million for road rehabilitation as a response to increased road damages that have been worsened by incessant rains across the country. An inter-ministerial committee has since been set up to oversee the implementation of the road rehabilitation programme.
In addition, the Government intends to raise $100 million for the road emergency rehabilitation programme with the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration acting as guarantor of the money to be disbursed to urban councils, rural district councils and other road departments. The Minister for Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Jorum Gumbo, said to date $14,5 million had been raised and distributed to urban and rural local authorities.
“Government set up a committee chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development that meets every week to plan and guide the road emergency repair programme,” he said.
“There are two sub-committees that meet as often as necessary to carry out tasks directed by the main committee and these are: Finance sub-committee chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and Technical sub-committee chaired by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
“Government intends to raise $100 million for the road emergency rehabilitation programme, through a Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) bond which will be distributed to Department of Roads (DOR), District Development Fund (DDF) and urban council and Rural District Councils (RDCs).
“The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has to date raised $14,5 million that is intended to be revised for the emergency road repair programme and $9,5 million has been availed to DOR and $5 million to the other authorities — Urban councils, DDF and RDCs.”
Dr Gumbo indicated that work had already begun on roads in urban councils as well as rural districts around the country.
Road repairs have already started in areas such as Matabeleland South, Midlands, Manicaland as well as Harare Metropolitan.
“Work started on roads repairs in Harare in February (last month). This work will continue with roads in the Central Business District (CBD), low and high density suburbs being next in line,” he added.
“At Nkankezi (Matabeleland South), the low level bridge on the old strip road has been repaired and opened to traffic.
“Temporary approaches have been constructed on Mwanezi Bridge on the Mberengwa-West Nicholson Road in Midlands and it has now been opened to traffic. Following the end of rains a detour will be constructed and the bridge approaches will be constructed properly.”
We are glad that the Government is prioritising the rehabilitation of the country’s road network and urge the implementing agencies to expedite the programme. We are aware that the country requires at least $2,2 billion to rehabilitate the entire road network but the current efforts signal the beginning of the process.