GOVERNMENT will consider banning heavy cargo trucks from the country’s roads when the railway infrastructure has been revived, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking while officially launching the $400 million National Railways of Zimbabwe recapitalisation programme in Bulawayo last week, Mnangagwa said his administration was working on a number of measures to fix Zimbabwe’s dilapidated railway infrastructure, which was last serviced nearly two decades ago.
“An efficient railway network will help remove bulk cargo from our roads and transfer it into the railways hence our road and railway projects must be complementary and concurrent where possible,” he said.
He noted that the current scenario, where road transport was moving a lot of bulk cargo, is causing damages to national roads and made them unsafe and inconvenient to ordinary motorists.
“It is my sincere hope that once the railway network has been restored to acceptable levels of efficiency, the necessary steps will be taken to move bulk cargo by rail,” he said.
The ban would significantly affect operations of heavy goods vehicles which move more than 90 percent of cargo in the country. There are also transit trucks that pass through the country from neighbouring countries like Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Malawi.
Most of the country’s major roads, have outlived their lifespan, and are now dilapidated.
Consignments landing at the port of Beira in Mozambique have had to pass through Zimbabwe to Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.
There have been large volumes of traffic from the DRC to South Africa passing through Zimbabwe.
Therefore, Zimbabwe is under pressure to not only rehabilitate its roads, but also modernise them.
Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Transport, Communication and Meteorology.
In terms of that protocol, Zimbabwe agreed to assist in developing an adequate road network that supports the socio-economic growth underway in the region.
The network needs to provide access to major centres, ports, and harbours, while minimising road transport costs and impacts to the environment.
According to SADC, roads affect all aspects of development in the region.
“Businesses depend on effective roads for transporting their goods, industry relies on roads for delivery of equipment, and people require roads for travel between home, workplaces, and elsewhere in the region,” the regional body said.
But Zimbabwe is facing budgetary constraints, and has very limited capacity to undertake infrastructure projects without funding from external sources.
Calling for urgent investment in the country’s roads by the private sector., Mnangangwa urged Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo (pictured) to expedite the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway and many other road construction and rehabilitation projects throughout the country.
The tender for the $1 billion dualisation project was awarded to Geiger International and officially commissioned in May last year, but is yet to start, with indications it will commence next month.
The contractor will work with Zhejiang Bayong Highway Engineering Company of China. The firm was contracted by government to carry out the project under a 25-year build-operate-transfer model.
Cliff Gondo, a senior lecturer at Chinhoyi University of Technology and a procurement specialist said: “With the new Act, there is an opportunity to correct the past ills of the procurement system. Efficient and effective public procurement systems significantly influence the provision of government services like the provision of roads, hospitals, healthcare, sanitation, telecommunication facilities, education, environmental protection, promotion of human rights.”
Gondo added: “The new Act is in line with the Section 315 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Up until now, government had not recognised procurement as a specialist profession. But now, it recognises procurement function as an important tool for achieving economic, social, political and other objectives.”