Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
PART of Cecil Avenue in Bulawayo remains closed after the contractor halted works demanding full payment for the job whose cost stands at US$11,5 million, nine months after the road was barricaded for major rehabilitation work.
The project is wholly funded by Government and the contractor, JTL Equipment, was paid 30 percent (US$888 573) of the full amount.
The contractor brought equipment to the site and also delivered road filler (gravel) which was heaped on the first 2km of the road from Bulawayo-Harare road to Coghlan Avenue.
The whole scope of work is 6,5 km with 5km being dual carriageway reconstruction and asphalt overlay.
Asphalt overlay is an ingenious paving method that introduces a fresh layer of asphalt to any surface that shows signs of deterioration. Instead of removing the existing asphalt layer in its entirety, the overlay makes use of the current layers as the base for the new pavement.
Cecil Avenue was created to prevent heavy-duty vehicles from passing through the city centre especially those coming from Victoria Falls Road and going to Plumtree, Hope Fountain, Beitbridge and through Beitbridge Border Post on the way to South Africa.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the road yesterday, it discovered that some people are now stealing the filler probably for domestic construction works. Grass is also growing on the heaps while barricades to stop motorists from driving over the road have since been removed with cars driving through. Even a Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) vehicle was seen turning into the road going towards the Bulawayo-Harare highway.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Engineer Theodius Chinyanga said the contractor will resume work upon full payment which he said will be ‘in due course’.
“To date, 2km has been reconstructed to base 2 and base 1. This is the only section closed to traffic. The contractor subsequently suspended works due to cash flow problems because of late payments. He promises to resume works upon full payment of the submitted certificate,” said Eng Chinyanga.
He said payment will be made in due course but could not be drawn into giving a specific timeline as the paperwork was now with the treasury.
“I cannot give those (timelines) unless they are first confirmed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” said Eng Chinyanga.
The rehabilitation of Cecil Avenue road is part of Government’s Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 (ERRP 2) meant to improve the country’s road network. The positive impact of ERRP 2 has been witnessed on the city roads such as Siyepambili Drive, George Avenue and 23rd Avenue which has resulted in smooth sailing for drivers after they were rehabilitated in 2021.
In January, Bulawayo City Council embarked on the rehabilitation of sections of the badly damaged Luveve Road that has seen the closure of two sections of the road, the first starting from Matshobana traffic lights opposite PetroTrade filling station to Gampu Road turnoff which was closed in January.
Last week, the second section starting from the kombi pick-up point in Makokoba to Thorngrove Road turnoff in Mzilikazi was also closed.
Under the Infrastructure, Utilities, and Digital Economy cluster, Zimbabwe’s economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy (NDS1) prioritises the completion of road rehabilitation projects.
The main aspirations of NDS1 include infrastructural development as a key enabler in attaining Vision 2030.
NDS1 notes that “a road can become an economy” and in this regard, focus will be on the development of feeder roads into communities as a way of developing underdeveloped remote areas.
Last year, President Mnangagwa instructed the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to fix the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway considering its strategic importance to the economy.
A tender for the project was flighted and bids closed on February 27.
The latest tender to fix the road is for the routine maintenance of the entire highway and the transport ministry has previously said the complete rehabilitation of the road will be implemented once Government completes the reconstruction of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway.–@skhumoyo2000