GOVERNMENT has started rehabilitating the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway starting with badly damaged sections that will be resurfaced.
Bitumen World, which is already on site, has been contracted to repair the road.
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development is using funds from the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme Phase Two (ERRP 2) for the project.
The state of the road has been a cause for concern to various stakeholders as well as motorists as driving along the highway had become a nightmare due to potholes and total collapse of some stretches of the road.
From Beitbridge, the road is badly damaged around Mavunga and Makhado areas.
Other parts are littered with potholes, but are better compared to stretches around the two areas.
Between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, the whole road has become bumpy due to numerous patches and potholes.
The badly damaged stretches are between Insuza and Mbembesi River, either side of Kenmaur, between Lupane and Fatima, between Halfway and Gwayi as well as around Hwange.
Driving along the 40km stretch from Hwange to Victoria Falls is a nightmare and the journey that used to take about an hour now takes two hours.
Driving between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls now takes about eight hours when it used to take between four and six hours.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said since the contractor is already on site, an assessment of how work has progressed so far will be done next week.
“We have already started rehabilitating Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road and from now onwards you will see accelerated movement of equipment along the road,” said Minister Mhona.
He said grass cutting and side road bush clearing is already underway.
“The idea now is to target damaged sections where we will be ripping and reconstructing. So far grass cutting, pothole patching is underway and we are looking at the whole Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road,” said Minister Mhona.
Government declared the state of roads infrastructure in the country a state of emergency following heavy rains and has been rehabilitating the road network through the ERRP2 that is set to be succeeded by the Road Development Programme with the aim of developing the country’s roads to meet world class standards in line with Vision 2030.
Government has so far expressed satisfaction on the work that is being done under the ERRP2 and urged the Zimbabwe National Road Authority (Zinara) to prioritise funding of some roads under the same programme.
Zinara has since allocated $41 billion to various road authorities including councils, for maintenance of road infrastructure countrywide, with over $11 billion disbursed between January and last month.
The Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road is crucial to the country’s growth as it provides an interconnector to the North-South corridor via Beitbridge, Southern Africa’s busiest land port.
The road is used by tourists from South Africa to Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia hence its state has a huge bearing on arrivals.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the road needs urgent attention to save tourism.
He said the state of roads network in the province in general was deplorable and needs urgent attention.
“Victoria Falls Road is our pillar and all our economic activities are hinged on it, but it is in a bad state. We wish Treasury and Ministry of Transport could speed up rehabilitation of all the roads because besides tourism and other economic activities, they are key as we enter the election period,” he said.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North chairperson Mr Chiku Mulinde commended Government for taking heed of calls to fix the road.
He said the state of the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road had cost the tourism sector potential business as road users dread driving for holiday.
“If you look at the recent Easter period you see that the domestic market was low and hotels that did better are the ones that had international clients while the local market could not risk lives driving for holiday.
“We attribute the drop in business to the state of the road, but having mentioned that, the initiative by Government to fix the roads is welcome. Yes, it’s going to be temporary measure but it will really make a huge difference and boost business. We really await the time when the road will be fixed,” said Mr Mulinde.
He said the second quarter of the year is traditionally a conference season and good roads are key to Victoria Falls’ business.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Tourism Guides Association has also mobilised resources to fix the Victoria Falls-Kazungula Road which is also badly damaged.
Mr Francis Nyabadza, the association chairperson, said work on the road will start in due course.
Tourism guides decided to partner Government to fix the road because they spend most of their time driving tourists around different resorts and endure the bad state of the road and want to protect the country’s image. — @ncubeleon