Mashudu Netsianda/ Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Chronicle Reporters
THE construction of major roads linking Bulawayo with Nkayi and Tsholotsho districts has gathered momentum as the Second Republic steps up efforts towards completing outstanding infrastructure development projects in the Matabeleland region.
Developing sound road infrastructure is one of the critical enablers towards achieving set targets under the National Development Strategy (NDS1), the Government’s five-year economic master plan, which spans from 2021 through to 2025.
The rehabilitation of the 158km Bulawayo-Nkayi Road resumed two months ago. So far only a stretch of about 50km has been widened and tarred over the years with the remainder of the road linking Turk Mine and Inyathi area in Bubi District up to Nkayi Centre being worked on.
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has contracted SX Construction (Pvt) Ltd, which is working on rehabilitating 14km under the Government funded Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 (ERRP2).
The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) has distributed nearly $6 billion to all provinces and local authorities for road maintenance in the first quarter of this year under the ERRP2.
In February this year, Zinara set aside $17 billion for the ERRP, which is in line with the ethos of the NDS1 whose main aspirations include infrastructural development as a key enabler to attaining Vision 2030 aimed at transforming the country into an upper middle-income economy.
Zinara does not do road work itself, but is the collection authority for the two sources of revenue that must be spent on roads, vehicle licence fees and toll fees.
In an interview yesterday, Matabeleland North provincial roads engineer, Eng Xolani Ncube, said in terms of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, they have so far completed a stretch of 5km, which will be tarred next week.
“The total length of 14km on the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road that we are doing is progressing well. So far, we have completed major road works covering 5km and what is now left is surfacing,” he said.
“We have also been busy working on benching and raising of shoulders on the 9km stretch.”
The upgrading of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, which had become untrafficable and a death trap, is good news to the motoring public and businesses.
For the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road, Eng Ncube said the total length under construction also covers 5km. The contractor, Road Trackers Construction, has finished all the earthworks.
Eng Ncube said due to prevailing weather conditions, surfacing works have been shelved until the end of the winter season.
“The contractor has finished all the earthworks and surfacing will not be done at the moment because of low temperatures. “Soon after winter, the contractor will resume work, which requires a ground temperature of at least above 25 degrees Celsius.”
Under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, the Government is scaling up rehabilitation of major roads across the country as a key enabler to business viability and investment attraction.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the rehabilitation of the roads will go a long way in addressing transport challenges.
“I recently visited the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road where they are currently doing a 14km stretch from where we had left up to Ingwigwizi River Bridge and by the end of the year, we would have done another 20km until we eventually get to Nkayi,” he said.
“I am happy with progress and the contractor told me that next week they will be tarring 5km. The road is one of the key roads in the province with a lot of economic activities revolving around mining and therefore it is important for us to give it top priority.”
Minister Moyo said President Mnangagwa’s Government wants to see the region being developed in line with the national thrust.
“We want to express gratitude to President Mnangagwa’s Government for allocating funds for the rehabilitation of that road,” he said.
“For years, transport to Nkayi has been a challenge because of the poor road network resulting in transport operators pulling out of the route.”
Bubi Rural District Council chief executive officer, Dr Patson Mlilo, said the rehabilitation of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road will help attract investment in the district.
“This project is indeed a welcome development for us as Bubi RDC as it will attract meaningful development. For investors to invest in a particular area, they need accessibility and we hope through this project, we will be able to attract new investment and boost our economy,” he said.
The Government has said the upgrading of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road is a top priority as it responds to stakeholder concern that the project has taken too long to complete after it was started in 1993 with an initial completion date set for 1999.
Chiefs in Nkayi District recently expressed interest to engage with President Mnangagwa and seek his intervention towards speeding up the rehabilitation of Bulawayo-Nkayi Road.
Chief Sikhobokhobo, one of the oldest serving traditional leaders in the area said they had engaged Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, to forward their request for a meeting with President Mnangagwa.
“While we are happy with ongoing road works, we feel there is a need for the project to be speeded up as it is affecting our people in terms of accessibility. We have engaged the Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni to forward our request to the President,” he said.
A Chronicle news crew on Monday visited the Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road and observed that earthwork has been completed and awaiting surfacing of the 10km.
Sadly, some motorists are already driving on the road, ignoring the detour despite clear road signs indicating that construction of the road is underway.
The newly contracted road’s width surface has also been increased from four to eight metres.
The news crew last week visited the 14 stretches under rehabilitation on the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road and observed road works being done from Bulawayo up to Cross Matapa.
The 15km stretch leading to Badala Business Centre in Inyathi is being widened and detours have been created with part of the road having been re-gravelled.
The road rehabilitation programme is said to have created at least 20 000 jobs and contributed to improved economic activities in the construction sector country wide.