US$2bn Beitbridge highway project begins

THE long-awaited dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway by Chinese firm China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) worth over US$2 billion has moved a step closer after government deployed local engineers on site to carry out exploratory work two weeks ago.

By Herbert Moyo

Transport minister Joram Gumbo
Transport minister Joram Gumbo

Transport Minister Joram Gumbo this week confirmed the development, adding that this would also give the financier and contractor ample time to organise their finances and equipment. He said that Austrian company Geiger International are the financiers, while Chinese firm CHEC will be the contractors.

“As I speak to you engineers are already on the stretch of the road from Beitbridge to Masvingo and also from Harare to Chirundu,” Gumbo said in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent.

“Some of the things that need to be dtermined include where the bridges will be located, which land might need to be acquired, where it might be necessary to destroy houses and people relocated to make way for the project.

“These are things that we are doing now, waiting for the contractor and financier who are also now busy putting together the finances and equipment so that they can come to Zimbabwe. They will be coming to Zimbabwe so we sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with them then afterwards we can have the ground-breaking ceremony. We hope the money will be available and everything will be in place for actual work to start in July.”

Gumbo also said his ministry was working with stakeholders from different portfolios, including Lands and Local Government, as the project could lead to compensation for affected communities.

“We are now in full swing with our preparations for the construction of the road from Beitbridge to Harare and from Harare to Chirundu so that we can come up with an implementation plan. It’s a massive project that requires a huge injection of funds and involvement of local people who will be thoroughly vetted to ensure they are up to the task,” Gumbo said.

“There will be a lot of employment, at least 300 000 people will be employed, some as suppliers, some in clearing the stretch, some in the construction.”

Zimbabwe is the artery and hub of Sadc’s road transport network linking Southern Africa with the rest of Africa.
The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway facilitates the movement of millions of people between Southern Africa and central, east and north Africa while also facilitating regional trade.

The country has, however, failed to repair and upgrade the highway and many other roads which date back to the Rhodesian era.

The latest moves to finally renovate the road came amid reports of plans by South Africa and other regional countries for a new route to bypass Zimbabwe largely because of the bad state of its road network.