George Maponga in Masvingo
Government yesterday commissioned the first 100km of the rehabilitated and widened Harare-Beitbridge highway, with local contractors earning plaudits for successfully executing the job in a move that dovetails with President Mnangagwa’s vision to create an upper middle income society by 2030 by curbing foreign currency outflows.
The New Dispensation under President Mnangagwa awarded five local companies — Tensor, Masimba Construction, Fossil, Exodus and Company and Bitumen World — contracts to widen and rehabilitate the Harare-Beitbridge highway, after previous false starts by foreign companies.
The five firms were given an initial 20km stretch each along the highway in a move hailed as a milestone due to positive spin-offs drawn from using local resources to carry major local projects.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Engineer Joel Biggie Matiza yesterday expressed satisfaction with the ground covered by the five firms that are rehabilitating arguably the country’s busiest road in terms of vehicular and human traffic.
Speaking at the commissioning at Great Zimbabwe Hotel, where representatives of all the contractors and top Government officials attended, Minister Matiza said he was hopeful the contractors would clock a cumulative 200km by the end of next month.
The contractors were given a target to complete 200km this year, with the entire stretch from Harare to Beitbridge expected to be complete in 2022.
“The contractors have now covered over 100km and the 200km target by end of next month is achievable because looking at what has been covered now, it means they are now left with about 95km,” said Minister Matiza.
“Another major positive thing which makes the target possible is that these contractors now have a business relationship so they can work together and this will speed up the process.”
The Cabinet minister said next year, the Government expected preliminary works on the Harare-Chirundu stretch to kick-off.
This work includes initial design works for the actual physical construction work.
Government, he said, remained committed to completing the highway widening and rehabilitation for it to meet regional standards since it was a key artery for trade, not only locally, but also for the central African hinterland.
Minister Matiza revealed that President Mnangagwa was impressed with the performance of local contractors on the work they had done on the highway.
Local contractors were however, supposed to come up with favourable pricing models and enter into joint ventures with big and reputable companies to tap both expertise and investment as infrastructural development was one of the key enablers of Vision 2030.
“Very few people believed that you (local contractors) could do it, but you are doing well and the President is very impressed by the work you have done so far which is the biggest yet infrastructural project undertaken by local contractors since independence.”
“Some thought it was politics when local companies were given the nod to do the work and this must be reciprocated by favourable pricing models. Our local contractors on this project must be commended for hard work and this once again goes to prove that we are our own liberators and masters of our own destiny,” said Minister Matiza.
President Mnangagwa and his Government saw it fit to award the contract to local companies after efforts to tap foreign financing and companies proved futile despite several attempts to court them under the old dispensation.
Minister Matiza said he was proud of the quality of work done by the contractors and expressed optimism they would meet timelines for completion, with President Mnangagwa expected to commission phase 2 of the project to develop the next 200km.
Representing the local contractors Mr Obey Chimuka, the chief executive of Fossil, highlighted that the ground covered by local contractors on the highway project showed Zimbabweans had capacity to develop projects of such a magnitude.
Mr Chimuka said Zimbabwe had skilled manpower in various spheres with its nationals scattered across the globe whom he said could be roped in to help develop their motherland which had potential to speedily develop on the back of its rich natural resources and human capital base.
The Government, he said, was supposed to continue supporting the contractors by making sure all their requirements were quickly attended for them to meet their targets.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira said the upgrading of the highway was overdue as the Harare-Beitbridge highway had become a death trap owing to its bad state coupled with a sharp increase in traffic.
Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister Clemence Chiduwa assured the contractors that the Government would continue prioritising the highway project in resource allocation saying a good road network was key in lowering the cost of doing business which was in sync with Vision 2030.