Walter Nyamukondiwa, Chinhoyi Bureau
Government will now proceed to sign the concession agreement for the $800 million Beitbridge-Harare and Harare-Chirundu roads dualisation project, paving way for work to commence within the next three months.
The move will culminate in ground-breaking ceremonies for the highways in early February.
There have been delays in signing the agreement with the identified contractor Geiger Investments as Government waited for Japanese company JICA’s feedback.
The grant to cover the work on the mountainous area around Makuti was availed following President Mugabe’s visit to Japan last year where several deals were inked.
Delays in getting the Japanese company’s input on the scope of the grant had stalled the signing of the agreement as Government weighed its options.
Experts from the company were in the country last year to conduct a feasibility study on the stretch of the road notorious for hairpin curves and steep gradients.
It is not yet clear if the grant will cover only the 20km mountainous stretch or will extend to Chirundu.
Addressing road authorities in Chinhoyi on Monday, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said the grant was a cheaper financing option.
“My officers are going ahead and preparing the concession agreement so that we sign with the company that has done the feasibility study, which amounted to $800m,” said Dr Gumbo.
“We had stopped working on the agreement hoping that the Japanese company will get back to us with indications on the grant they are willing to commit, and how much it will cost.
“We expected that by December, we would have received the response.”
He said adjustments can be made once the Japanese company makes its commitment, which will be subtracted from the $800m loan facility.
Grants are generally cheaper than loans and the grant from the Japanese company is expected to significantly reduce the cost of constructing the road.
This means that if the grant is for $200 million then it will be subtracted from the $800m loan facility, making it cheaper.
Dualisation of the two roads is expected to gobble a combined $2,134 billion, including $336 million for the construction of the Harare ring road.
The meeting brought together road authorities from Mashonaland West province, including officials from local authorities, the District Development Fund, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development and Members of Parliament.
Norton legislator Mr Temba Mliswa expressed concern at the delays being caused by waiting to get feedback from the Japanese company.
He said people continued to die due to the poor state of the country’s roads.
Chegutu East legislator Cde Webster Shamu said a mechanism should be put in place to ensure that locals benefited through the 40 percent quota set for the road dualisation project.
Dr Gumbo said while Government was committed to empowering its people, some locals were actually fronting for external companies.
“It is disheartening that some people choose to become the face of external companies so that they deprive local ones,” he said. “It’s better to have that quota filled by Zimbabweans so that the money remains here.”
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development Cde Dexter Nduna said more avenues of improving revenue to be channelled towards road maintenance should be implemented.
He said Government, that has a fleet of 207 000 vehicles, should be made to pay vehicle licence and toll gate fees.
“That is a big constituency that should be contributing towards road maintenance through paying fees the same way Government workers pay taxes,” he said.
He said the country should increase road access fees for foreign vehicles from $10 to $20, so that it helps in improving the state of the roads.
Dr Gumbo said the proposals will be tabled in Cabinet.