Gwanda — Government has availed $30 million for various roads in Matabeleland South province under the road development programme that will see maintenance of roads and undertaking of developmental projects in the province.
Addressing the road and traffic state of the province is part of the goals of the devolution agenda that President Mnangagwa is promoting as a developmental matrix, and Matabeleland South's position makes it critical as a transport hub, necessitating development of the infrastructure.
The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) is already carrying out road projects worth $6 million in the same province.
Speaking during a tour of the province to assess the conditions of roads, as well as interacting with road users, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza said contracts had already been signed with contractors.
"Work is going to be done on five or six major roads," he said. "Contracts have already been signed and contractors are preparing to move in. By 2030, Matabeleland South will be a different place.
"We want to applaud President Mnangagwa for fulfilling his election promise to focus on constructing and maintaining roads, among other developmental projects. We should look at roads as an asset in our socio-economic life."
Minister Matiza said as Government implemented devolution, Matabeleland South should thrive to be an economic giant with trafficable roads. He said he appointed a new Zinara board so that it could bring financial prudence to the parastatal.
"We want to ensure that there is more money for roads," said Minister Matiza. "Road authorities should be equipped to make sure that our roads are trafficable.
"Road authorities should also play their part because I am informed that only 25 percent of local authorities have submitted their acquittals to Zinara so that they can access more funds.
"I will soon expose councils which are sitting on those papers and not moving at the same pace with Government in road projects."
Minister of State for Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Abednico Ncube said infrastructure development and good road network would play a pivotal role in ensuring that the province contributed to the development of the country's economy and attainment of vision 2030.
"Upgrading of roads to tourist destinations like Matopos National Park through the improvement of the Bulawayo-Kezi-Legion road is a priority for us for the promotion of tourism," he said.
"It is saddening to note that over the past few years, this province has experienced too many road accidents. As you are aware, our province is home to numerous border posts and we have large amounts of traffic coming through our Beitbridge Border Post."
Zinara board chairman Eng Michael Madanha said his board would come up with ways of facilitating timeous release of road funds to road authorities.
"We are going to change some of our processes to ensure that road authorities get road funds before acquitting the first disbursements," he said.
"We collect road user fees from January to December, so sometimes the funds are not readily available, that is why maybe some local authorities will not get funds timeously."
Eng Madanha said the bulk of local authorities were not submitting their acquittals. Some of the roads under construction in the province are Bulawayo-Kezi-Legion, Gwanda-Guyu-Manama-Tuli, Mphoengs-Maphisa, Plumtree-Tsholotsho, Plumtree-Maitengwe and West Provincial Road.