The Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Senator Morgan Komichi has commended Finance Minister Tendai Biti for making funds available for the various projects being undertaken by his ministry. The ministry is working on several multi-million dollar projects on major roads across the country.
He also commended the ministry's staff for working hard on road maintenance, resurfacing, upgrading and dualisation.
Some of the major projects being undertaken by Senator Komichi's ministry are; the dualisation of the Bulawayo, Plumtree, Mutare highway, expansion of the Harare - Mutare highway, and the dualisation of highways linking Harare to Masvingo and Harare to Chirundu and Nyamapanda.
"A lot has been done but a lot more still needs to be done and we have a lot of hope," said Senator Komichi.
The ministry has not overlooked smaller roads and it is resurfacing the Golden - Sanyati road at a cost of US$500 000 and the Empress Mine Road for US$300 000. "With the United Nations Tourism World Organisation (UNTWO) coming, we have a plan in place to redesign the Bulawayo - Victoria Falls Road. We are also redesigning Harare Drive in order to reduce congestion in Harare caused by haulage trucks," he said.
The deputy minister however expressed his displeasure at the level of corruption by some senior managers and boards of government entities under his ministry. Some of the entities under his ministry are the national airliner, Air Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) and the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Air Zimbabwe and NRZ have been hit by serious operational challenges over the past year which has seen both air and rail traffic being grounded. The companies are also failing to pay their workers' salaries. The challenges have been attributed to serious corruption within the senior management while some board members are still illegally attending to business of the said entities.
Zinara has been accused of failing to transparently remit funds collected from motorists to local councils for the maintenance of public roads. "It's a serious corporate governance issue. It is in the interest of the taxpayers as shareholders of these companies that statements are published so that they can analyse them and I am encouraging them to do so. There is also an urgent need to ensure that the boards of the various parastatals under the ministry are operating legally and I will ensure that this is done," said Senator Komichi.
However, all hope is not lost and the ministry is working out a turn-around plan which has seen Air Zimbabwe back in business and opening up new routes to countries such as Nigeria. NRZ has improved the annual tonnage it moves from 2, 5 billion a year to 4, 5 billion. "NRZ is still operating in doldrums but we expect the target for this year to be 5 billion tonnes and beyond," he said.
An operational proposal has been made for NRZ to operate with two separate business units for cargo and one for passengers.
Senator Komichi said "We are working tirelessly and we want to have new partners involved in NRZ and we hope by splitting it into two companies it will help in improving its operations". Turning to roads, the deputy minister said two machines for road patching purposes were recently purchased by the ministry at a cost of US$500 000.
One of the machines is in Victoria Falls while the other is operating in Harare. The two machines will soon be transferred permanently to Mashonaland East and Matabeleland South. "Our aim is to have one road patching machine in each province and we hope that the issue of potholes will soon be a thing of the past," said Senator Komichi.