GOVERNMENT has awarded the $2 billion Chirundu-Harare-Beitbridge Highway dualisation project to a new contractor, replacing Austrian contractor Geiger International, which was booted out recently for taking long to get off the ground.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Josaya Hungwe announced the development at a Press conference yesterday, but declined to name the new contractor, although there are speculative reports that the government has awarded the tender to a Chinese firm.
“We have not been told the new company, but we have been told the tender has been given to another company, which has the capacity to undertake the project,” he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced during a recent visit to China that Geiger International’s tender to carry out one of the biggest road projects in the country since independence had been cancelled because the firm had failed to deliver on time.
However, days later, Transport minister Jorum Gumbo, in a conflicting statement, said the contract had not been cancelled, as it would attract a legal showdown as engineers from Geiger International insisted they were already on the ground doing surveys and feasibility studies.
Gumbo yesterday could not be reached for comment, as his mobile phone went unanswered.
The tender to dualise the Chirundu-Harare-Beitbridge Highway, which has been on the drawing board for the past 16 years, was initially awarded to ZimHighways — a consortium of local companies — in 2002, but the company failed to implement the project for over a decade because of hyperinflation.
When the government cancelled the deal, the contractor sought recourse at the High Court before dropping the legal battle in 2013, paving way for the Geiger deal, which was finalised in 2016 after talks that dragged on for over four years.
Geiger International had forecast that the project would take 18 months to complete.