Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
THE rehabilitation of the 115km Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road has begun and is expected to be complete before the end of the year as the Second Republic ups the developmental momentum in the region.
Having sound roads 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 2021 to 2025.
The first phase begins at the 10km peg from Bulawayo and is expected to stretch up to the Gwayi River bridge in Umguza District.
Another contracted company will start its work from the Tsholotsho Business Centre to the same bridge, officials said.
The road project was earlier estimated to cost about $350 million, and is expected to bring huge relief to the motoring public and enhance economic operations in the district, which is home to the first-ever Rural Electrification Agency’s 60KW solar project at Bemba area under Chief Tategulu, 70km from Tsholotsho Business Centre.
Despite the distance from Bulawayo to Tsholotsho being only 115km, it presently takes up to four hours to drive due to the bad state of the road.
The dilapidated state of the road has also forced public transporters and private operators, including cross-border transporters popularly known as Omalayitsha, to use the longer route via Solusi, which adds on to the cost of transportation.
“The proposal is that we will be having one company doing that stretch from the 10km peg going for 5km initially but the whole plan is to stretch up to Gwayi River bridge,” Tsholotsho district development coordinator, Mr Aaron Gono, said.
“Another company will then start its work from the Tsholotsho business centre to the same bridge.
“Barring any unforeseen eventualities, this project is expected to wind up before the end of the year.”
Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo, also confirmed the progress in rehabilitating the road.
“This is what we have always wanted as a province, we want to thank the Government under the leadership of President Mnangagwa who have listened to our pleas.
“The development will come with a massive economic benefit. Goods and services have been very expensive due to the poor road network but all this shall soon become a thing of the past,” said Minister Moyo.
The road is un-trafficable just after Nyamandlovu as one approaches the Khami River bridge, with negative impact on businesses as well.
Local businessman, Mr Melusi Ndebele, said the rehabilitation works were good news to businesses as it will boost investment confidence.
He said when the road was intact, they used to take just an hour to drive from Tsholotsho Business Centre to Bulawayo but now it was a four-hour drive.
“Transporting goods will be made easy. Our businesses are affected now because the one-hour journey is now four hours,” said Mr Ndebele.
“We used to drive to Bulawayo in the morning to replenish their stock in good time to sell our wares which is no longer the case now. Better road will boost business.”
The Government continues to make significant progress under the second phase of the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) in its efforts to improve the country’s road network with Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube apportioning 33 percent of the 2021 national budget towards infrastructure projects.
The massive investment in road rehabilitation and construction will help lay a sound foundation for economic growth given that transportation is a key enabler of economic growth and development.
During the post-Cabinet briefing last week, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said grading and graveling of Lupila-Nanda Road in Tsholotsho is now 90 percent complete.