Group Five, the South African firm contracted to rebuild the Plumtree-Mutare highway, has said rebuilding the road to the same standards as South African Gauteng Freeways would have cost Zimbabwe about $3 billion.
The 800km stretch project is being funded through a loan facility of $206 million from a Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to Infralink on a 70-30 percent joint venture between Zinara and Group Five. The firm's projects director for Zimbabwe, Engineer Ham Coetzee told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development that they however did not do sub-standard road works.
Zanu-PF MP for Epworth Amos Midzi chairs the committee. "So with $200 million and replication Gauteng Freeways; we would have done about 40 km road. 800km would cost about $3 billion," said Eng Coetzee. Eng Coetzee said a total of 712kms had to date been completed.
"We are targeting to complete all road works by mid-December," he said, adding that there had been delays in implementation of the project towards the end of last year due to late payment of funds by the Development Bank of South Africa. He said the project included the construction of nine toll plazas, with the plazas accounting for $27 million.
"The toll plazas are fully solar powered and are not connected to Zesa lines but they are a bit expensive," he said.
"Within three years, the additional cost would balance with what it would have cost to have Zesa lines connected."
Eng Coetzee said about 150kms of the road required total rehabilitation while 250kms would be widened with the remainder requiring being resurfaced and repaired.
The roads the company was working on, he said, would have a lifespan of up to 10 years. Eng Coetzee said the South African company had tried its best to empower locals through employment creation as well as sub-contracting local companies to do the road works.
He said the bulk of the material used for the construction was bought locally except for 80 percent of the bitumen used for road surfacing which was imported from South Africa as it was not readily available locally.
Group Five has employed over 1 078 people on the project, with only nine being South Africans, Eng Coetzee told the committee.
He said the firm had since established an office in Zimbabwe as it sought to strengthen its relations with the government. We are here to partner with the government of Zimbabwe and not to make a quick buck," he said when asked if the company was in the country to make quick money and leave.
Eng Coetzee said the company was making a profit of between three to four percent on the project. Meanwhile, the parliamentarians questioned why Group 5 had put in place many stopping points along the roads it was rehabilitating which inconvenienced travellers.
Eng Coetzee said they could not construct detours as these would balloon the project costs. The cold weather was also delaying progress as it was not ideal for resurfacing, were minimum temperatures of 25 degrees are required.