Africa Moyo in BEITBRIDGE
MOTORISTS, commuters and Beitbridge residents, yesterday welcomed the directive by President Mnangagwa for the immediate construction of the 760km Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway.
In his keynote address while commissioning the Beitbridge Border Post upgrade and modernisation project on Wednesday, President Mnangagwa directed Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona to immediately ensure that the rehabilitation of the key highway begins in earnest.
“We are also aware that the development of these border posts must be augmented by other complementing infrastructure for the efficient transportation of goods, movement of people and provision of services,” said President Mnangagwa.
“In that vein, my Government remains committed to ensuring that our major highways and feeder roads are speedily modernised.
“Riding on the notable successes made by the local companies on the Beitbridge-Harare road, we are determined to move on to modernise the Harare-Chirundu and the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls roads.”
President Mnangagwa then told Minister Mhona to make sure the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls roads were done.
While acknowledging the President’s directive, Minister Mhona said they had already constructed and completed 1km of the Beitbridge-Victoria Falls highway.
In separate interviews in Beitbridge town and at the Bulawayo Bus Stop just after the new roundabout yesterday, people said the rehabilitation of the road was long overdue given the potholes on large parts of the 320km distance to Bulawayo.
From Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, the over 435km distance is also characterised by large potholes.
The first 100km from Bulawayo are said to be too bad that it is a common phenomenon to see broken down vehicles on that stretch.
Some motorists have reportedly been robbed by people taking advantage of the desperation of the motorists.
A vendor, Ms Memory Matutu (38), who lives in Beitbridge’s Dulivhadzimu suburb said, “We badly want this road to be constructed. The area from Mazunga to Makhado is in very bad shape and many accidents occur on that stretch. The accidents happening are too many and once the road is fixed lives will be saved”.
Ms Matutu said apart from saving lives of motorists and passengers, rehabilitation of the highway would also create a safe environment for vendors who risk being hit by vehicles avoiding potholes.
Amai Prince who lives in Pidha, Beitbridge, said: “In all honesty, this road has been bad for some time and the announcement by the President is welcome.
“When the road is fixed, it gives the country a good image and visitors will enjoy their trips and appreciate that there is development in Zimbabwe. We appreciate what our President is doing in terms of developing infrastructure.”
She bemoaned bad roads in Beitbridge suburbs and sewer that flows in some areas, calling on the central Government to intervene and whip the Beitbridge Municipality into line.
A pirate taxi driver, Mr Enoch Sithole (56) who plies the Beitbridge-Bulawayo route and lives in Queens Park East in the City of Kings and Queens, said: “The Government should start working on the road now. The potholes are very bad and they are damaging tyres and claiming people’s lives”.
“It can take you up to 5 hours to travel this 320km distance because in some cases, you can be doing 20km per hour. If works were to start today, I could easily help with the watering; that’s how bad the road is.”
Mr Mazano Khumbulu (27), who lives in Beitbridge’s Tshitaudze suburb, and was hitch-hiking for transport to Bulawayo, said: “The rehabilitation of the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls would be great. Those with vehicles will spend less on spare parts and even as passengers, we will be happy to use a safe road.
“Accidents will be reduced considerably too, if the road is in good shape.”
Mr Shingisai Ndou (30) also from Tshitaudze , said he was happy that the President had ordered the modernisation of the highway as that would reduce accidents while vehicles would retain their good condition.
In an interview yesterday, Minister Mhona said he was now prioritising the project. “I will advise on further details, for now be rest assured that my focus is now on that road as directed by His Excellency (President Mnangagwa),” he said.
Over a year ago, there was hope that the project would take off after a South African company, Katho Holdings through its subsidiaries, Khato Civils and South Zambezi had won the tender.
Then, the project was supposed to be implemented on a Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model.
However, the tender was cancelled early this year
The multi-billion-dollar project has potential to boost regional trade as it connects four countries — Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana.