• ZINARA disbursed ZWL235 billion for road infrastructure projects in the first quarter of 2024
  • Largest share of funding allocated to Harare metropolitan area, with 22% already utilized
  • Concerns raised over transparency and monitoring of road projects

Harare- Zimbabwe's National Roads Authority (ZINARA) has disbursed a total of ZWL235 billion (ZiG 93,952,017.31) in the first quarter of 2024 according to its latest report. The larger proportion of this disbursement constituted funding for routine road maintenance projects.

At the prevailing street exchange rate in March 2024 when the ZWL was replaced by the new ZiG currency, the ZWL235 billion allocated for road infrastructure projects was equivalent to approximately US$9.4 million.

ZINARA is the corporate body responsible for collecting and disbursing road user fees to the various road authorities in Zimbabwe. It was established in 2002 to support the government's efforts to develop a robust national road network.

One of ZINARA's key mandates is to monitor the utilization of the funds it disburses, to ensure they are used for their intended purpose of roads development and maintenance.

Research indicates that Zimbabwe has a 98,000 km road network, with 89% being unsurfaced gravel and earth roads. Sealed roads, mostly in urban areas and the main highways, constitute 18% of the network, which is approximately 17,846 km.

In the first quarter of 2024, the government initiated a funding program for road infrastructure. Harare metropolitan area received the largest share, with ZWL 40 billion allocated, of which 22% had already been utilized. Mashonaland West province received the second-largest allocation, with ZWL 24 billion, while Masvingo province ranked third with ZWL 15.6 billion. These funds were allocated in the local currency, as it was the currency in use at the time.

Some of the key road projects that made headlines in the year included the long-awaited completion of the Harare-Chirundu highway, as well as rehabilitation works on roads leading to the Parliament of Zimbabwe in preparation for the SADC Heads of State Summit.

Additionally, smaller projects were initiated nationwide, such as the Mashava-Mandamabwe road project and the relocation of the Dema tollgate.

Meanwhile, ZINARA reported that several road projects had been concluded and opened to traffic. These include the first stretch of the Domboshava road and a road leading to the Heroes' Acre.

However, the report notes that the first completed section of the Domboshava road was less than half a kilometre in length. This raises concerns about the veracity of the information provided by ZINARA.

To truly improve the national and Zimbabwean road network, it is crucial for the authority to provide accurate and transparent information, and to enhance monitoring and oversight of the ongoing road infrastructure projects.

In recent years, several road infrastructure projects have been initiated in various parts of the country, such as the Mabvuku-Tafara road and the extension of Bulawayo Road along Kuwadzana. However, it is concerning that these constructed roads begun to develop potholes in less than a year of being commissioned.

This raises questions about the quality of workmanship and the need for proper monitoring and oversight of these projects. It is essential that road construction and maintenance contracts are awarded to companies with a proven track record of delivering high-quality work, rather than based on nepotism or favouritism.

Since the advent of the Second Republic, the government had promised to mobilize resources and channel them towards the rehabilitation and construction of key road infrastructure projects. This included the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu, Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, and Kwekwe-Nkayi roads. Additionally, the government tasked the District Development Fund (DDF) with rehabilitating at least 3 bridges and re-graveling 300 km of roads per year in all rural provinces from 2018 to 2023.

However, as we approach the end of 2024, it is concerning to note that not even half of these promised road infrastructure projects have been completed. This failure to deliver on the government's commitments within the specified timeframe raises questions about its ability to effectively plan, implement, and monitor these critical initiatives.

In 2021, the government introduced an economic blueprint known as the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) for the period of 2021-2025. The goal of NDS1 was to revive various sectors of the economy, including the road network.

To address the poor state of the country's roads, the government launched the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme. This initiative aimed to rehabilitate and revamp the ailing road infrastructure, which had become a significant impediment to national economic growth.

Under the NDS1, the government is aiming to increase the percentage of roads that meet the Southern Africa Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC) standards from 5% to 10%, and to expand the length of the road network in good condition from 14,702 km to 24,500 km by 2025.

However, of the ambitious targets set under NDS1, only 3% of the road network met the SATCC requirements, while only 11% of roads are in good condition. Thus, the government is likely set to miss its targets for improving the road network by 2025.

To get the road network development back on track and meet the NDS1 objectives, the government may need to re-evaluate its strategies, prioritize critical road projects, and address the bottlenecks hampering the timely completion of the planned works.

Strengthening public-private partnerships and improving project management could also help accelerate the rehabilitation and maintenance of the country's road infrastructure.

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