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Zinara takes the blame for poor state of Victoria Falls road

by Staff reporter
21 Jul 2023 at 06:32hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE National Road Administration (Zinara) chief executive officer, Mr Nkosinathi Ncube, yesterday apologised to stakeholders over the dilapidated state of the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Highway, which is now littered with potholes.

The busy highway has lately become a nightmare for motorists plying the route. The road is a strategic connection to the county's prime tourism destination, Victoria Falls and is also critical for regional trading within the north-south corridor – linking Zimbabwe with South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

The damaged state of the highway was a major reference point during yesterday's session of the Infrastructure Summit and Expo being hosted by the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF), here.

Difference participants who drove to Victoria Falls through the road expressed concern over its deplorable state and called for its speedy rehabilitation.

They detailed how driving through the highway is now a risky encounter for those not familiar with the terrain and linked its recent deterioration to the damaging impact of haulage trucks that transport heavy cargo mainly from the coal mines in Hwange.

In his presentation, Mr Ncube apologised to stakeholders and said work to rehabilitate worst effected sections of the road had started.

"Apologies to those who drove from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, I am sure you saw the type of road we have. We fund and maintain these roads and the contractor (Bitumen World Private Limited) is on the ground to work on the worst affected sections of the road," he said.

Mr Ncube blamed haulage trucks for the damage saying the loads from the mines that the trucks were ferrying were supposed to be transported by rail.

He said sustained maintenance of such infrastructure is a challenge given the funding gap linked to the limited fiscal space.

Mr Ncube said farmers were also incurring high transport costs because of the use of road transport instead of rail.

He bemoaned non-compliance in paying road user fees saying out of 100, about 30 percent were not compliant, thus frustrating efficient service delivery.

While Zinara's mandate is to collect road user fees and disburse them to road authorities, Mr Ncube said the other challenge they were facing was the deterioration of the exchange rate and gaps in monitoring and evaluation.

"In January we got a good budget for roads but all this has been eroded and is now inadequate hence in some places you see contractors abandoning the project sites. We have to address this working with the Ministry of Finance," he said

Due to poor quality workmanship by some contractors, he said more resources continue being channelled to the same projects thereby limiting the spread of the cake to other needy areas.

Mr Ncube challenged contractors to provide quality works given that many of them were demanding a lot of money to undertake such projects.

He said private sector players must take full ownership of this responsibility.

 Mr Ncube said reliance on a cash budget for road rehabilitation projects does not work especially considering that financing of infrastructure projects is intertwined with the crippling nature of the illegal Western sanctions that have adversely affected the economy.

Unlike other countries within the region, he said Zimbabwe lacks access to critical global lines of credit as well as development partner support.

This, compounded with a lack of skilled personnel and procurement bottlenecks, limit the country's ability to effectively rehabilitate and maintain its roads.

Mr Ncube noted in particular, how some local authorities have failed to fully utilise funds disbursed to them by Zinara as they do not have qualified engineers.

Citing a World Bank-assisted study, he said a holistic approach must be embraced to steer sustainable road development and emphasised the need to harness modern models that involve communities and private sector players as beneficiaries.

He noted that the building of the Plumtree-Bulawayo-Harare-Mutare Highway by Group Five of South Africa, for instance, has been lauded as a prime example of the success of partnerships, which has been emulated by regional peers.

Source - The Chronicle
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