PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday officially opened the US$20 million rehabilitated Ngundu-Tanganda highway, in a development expected to spur economic activity.
The road, which was badly damaged due to years of neglect, links Manicaland and Masvingo provinces via Chiredzi.
The road also links the Eastern Highlands to South Africa, Zimbabwe's major trading partner.
President Mnangagwa noted that the road had fallen into a state of disrepair.
"I remember when the new administration took over we were told by then Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Monica Mutsvangwa that a number of accidents were occurring here. We were told a section of the highway had become a black spot. We ordered that the area be rehabilitated. It was rehabilitated under Phase One. After the rehabilitation of that phase we continued to record accidents along this highway," said the President.
He said resource constraints delayed the rehabilitation of the road.
"As Government we resolved that we channel the little resources we had towards the rehabilitation of this road in Chipinge. I come here today as your servant and you are my people. I love you all and I do not care about those who do not like me. We have completed this road, but it does not end here. We have other areas that were affected by Cyclone Idai in Chipinge and Chimanimani which need our attention. Roads, bridges and schools were destroyed there," he said.
President Mnangagwa took the opportunity to speak about the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara).
"We have a department called Zinara, which is under (Transport and Infrastructural Development) Minister (Joel) Matiza. When Minister Matiza was appointed to the ministry, he found Zinara in place. All along we did not know that Zinara generates lots of revenue. We wonder where the money was going. We have resolved that money from tollgates must rehabilitate roads. As we speak, roads in all provinces are being rehabilitated by Zinara. We asked them in all these years where was the revenue generated by Zinara going but we did not get any satisfactory response. No response, tonhooo! We will, however, not live in the past. We look forward. We are keeping our eyes on all money generated by parastatals. It is not Zinara alone. There are other companies I will not mention. We are keeping an eye on them to see how they are using funds," he added.
He said Zinara was now actively on the ground rehabilitating roads.
"We are now confident that we can rehabilitate our roads using money generated locally. All along we thought to rehabilitate roads we needed funds from the US. No! We can do so with our own resources. If there are foreigners who want to assist us we have other roads that need attention," said President Mnangagwa citing the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Chirundu highway as an example.
President Mnangagwa said some foreign companies were in the past given contracts to rehabilitate local roads but disappointed leading to cancellation of the agreements citing Geiger International.
He warned foreign companies interested in such projects to be serious or face the axe.
Earlier in his address, Minister Matiza described the commissioning of the highway as yet another milestone.
"The completion of this road restores the seamless flow of traffic between Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces and is also key to the sustenance of the Chisumbanje ethanol project. Its benefit to other economic sectors and the local communities through which it traverses informed the decision-making leading to the undertaking of this project," he said.
The total scope of the project was 85km, from the 188km peg to the 273km peg.
The initial 30km was done between February 12, 2018 and and April 10, 2018.
A further 55km was done from February 12, 2019 to June 07 same year.
"A total of US$20 million was committed into this project which was contracted to Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd. Your Excellency, I am pleased to inform you that the contractor, Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd, together with my team from the Department of Roads, did a laudable job that you will commission here today, substantiating your assertion that Zimbabwe is indeed open for business and your Government means business," said Minister Matiza.
He said a poor road network undermines the potential of road transport system to contribute to economic development.
"It is imperative therefore that my Ministry's efforts in contributing to the Infrastructure and Utilities Pillar of Vision 2030 be driven from a road development and rehabilitation perspective. Accordingly, the successful completion of the Ngundu-Tanganda Road Rehabilitation Project is against a backdrop of a broader road development and rehabilitation programme in which the Department of Roads under my Ministry is working on at least five projects in each of the provinces of the country.
Senior Government officials including Minister Mutsvangwa and traditional leaders attended the event.