Zimbabwe: Transport - Connecting Citizens, Bridging Relations for Prosperity

10 April 2020

Every kilometre that one covers, every bridge that one may need to cross and every step one takes to reach out to where one's heart leads, goes a long way in the transformation of relations which is the starting point in the realisation of shared dreams.

Relationships are vital cogs in the transportation of dreams from one station to another, and bridges are resplendent markers of the power of compromise and unity against adversity. Building bridges, roads and railroads, therefore, is the starting point in the appreciation of linkages as vehicles of transformation that give other modes of transport impetus.

All journeys start from the heart which informs the faith that it is possible to reach out to others; and there is no better way to get to the station of dreams than taking the initiative to fly on the wings of the benu (the divine bird of blessings and eternity). Travelling is all that it takes to mend relations, kindle ties, unlock dreams, appreciate the joy of life and open up limitless horizons; all for the common good.

Since Independence in 1980, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has been committed to the realisation of Zimbabweans' collective dreams through provision of transport networks that make safe travelling a reality.

The ministry is headed by Honourable Joel Biggie Matiza with Engineer Amos Marawa as the Permanent Secretary.

Parastatals under the ministry's purview are the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA), Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), CMED, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), Air Zimbabwe, RMS and National Handling Services (NHS).

Mandate

Inspired by the vision to make Zimbabwe a regional hub for world-class transport networks, logistics and services, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development's mandate is to facilitate, provide and manage transport infrastructure networks, logistics and services efficiently for all Zimbabweans and other transport users.

Functions

The purposes of the ministry are to; formulate national transport and infrastructure policies; plan, design, construct and maintain regional trunk roads, state roads and bridges; plan, construct, operate and maintain the railway infrastructure and network in compliance with relevant national and international standards; and ensure that the transport sector complies with national and international standards. The ministry endeavours to provide services that ensure safety of road, rail, air and inland water traffic; supervise and administer relevant national and international regulations, treaties and protocols of all aspects of the transport and infrastructure sectors and provide freight and passenger transport and infrastructural networks and services. To fulfil its mandate to the people of Zimbabwe, the ministry provides, operates and maintains transport and equipment services; coordinates and supervises Parastatals and State Enterprises under the its purview; and approves, monitors and evaluates implementation of turn-around strategies by parastatals and State enterprises under the its ambit.

Embarking on the journey to prosperity

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has provided more than transport to Zimbabweans, but services cutting across the entire gamut of human endeavour.

Notwithstanding financial challenges in the past 20 years induced mainly by sanctions imposed on the country by the West and natural disasters like Cyclone Idai which have seen some roads deteriorating, the ministry has done a lot in the rehabilitation and construction of road infrastructure since Independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe's road network is about 88 133km, 14 000km of which are surfaced, 50 000km are all-weather and the remainder are earth roads.

Roads are classified in relation to their functions. There are regional trunk roads which cover roughly 3 391km with 94 percent of them surfaced. Secondary roads and tertiary roads also make up the road network in Zimbabwe. Secondary roads link regional, primary, tertiary and urban roads, industrial and mining centres, minor borders and tourist attractions.

Roads that provide access to schools, health centres, dip tanks and other facilities in rural district council areas or link and give access to secondary and regional roads are referred to as tertiary roads.

The road network is incomplete without bridges that enable road and rail crossing of waterways, flyovers, interchanges, road over road and road over rail.

There are approximately 1 051 bridges in Zimbabwe. Road transport permeates livelihoods routes for many Zimbabweans in the agricultural and mining sectors which are the backbone to economic expansion. The need arises, therefore, to have an efficient transport systems for products from the sectors to be competitive on both domestic and international markets.

Transporters usually shun inaccessible areas due to poor roads, as such, farmers and other citizens are affected as transport costs rise. Also, due to the perishable nature of farm produce, a bad road network has the effect of destroying livelihoods and impacts on the overall economic development of the country.

Farmers and miners need to link up with international markets as well. It is with this view in mind that the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development intervenes through rehabilitation and construction of roads in such areas.

For example, the Ngundu-Tanganda Highway which links Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces via Chiredzi was rehabilitated at a cost of US$20 million in 2019. The road also links the Eastern Highlands and South Africa, the country's major trading partner.

The road links Manicaland and Masvingo provinces via Chiredzi. It also connects the Eastern Highlands to South Africa, Zimbabwe's major trading partner.

The project covered 85km, from the 188km peg to the 273km peg. The initial 30km were done between February 12, 2018 and April 10, 2018. An additional 55km stretch was done from February 12, 2019 to June 7, 2019.

In Mashonaland East Province, there are quite a number of road developments underway, chief among them being the 56km Murehwa-Madacheche Road project which links the mineral (gold and black granite) rich Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe area to Harare and Mashonaland Central, and ultimately the global marketplace.

Leveraging on its highly qualified and experienced engineers, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development aligns with the devolution trust as it is well represented at provisional levels, and even at village level. The philosophy behind this is effecting a policy formulation process and prioritisation of projects that benefit citizens in their localities.

Another massive ongoing road construction project is the $1 billion Harare-Beitbridge Highway. Five local contractors were engaged in 2019 to build and rehabilitate the road to SATTC standards.

The plan to rehabilitate the highway was mooted a long time ago and a number of tenders were awarded, but failed to take off in 2002, 2016 and 2018. These tenders were awarded to ZimHighways (2002), Geiger International (2016) and Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation (2018).

The completion of the Harare-Beitbridge Highway will attract traffic that has been diverted to Victoria Falls-Kazungula Road and facilitate intra-trade within the country.

More local contractors are set to be engaged to expedite the rehabilitation of the Harare-Chirundu Road. Other road projects that will considerably improve Zimbabwe's transport system proficiency, and are crucial in the value chain in the medium term are Mbudzi Traffic Interchange and the Mabvuku Overpass.

The Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), which falls under the purview of the ministry, has complemented Government's road construction and rehabilitation efforts through collection of road users' charges.

The tollgate initiative which started in 2009, has created employment opportunities for hundreds of citizens, more than 30 percent of whom being women. The enterprise benefitted more than 220 local companies that were contracted as suppliers of different goods and services for the tollgates.

The fees collected, and other road users' charges, are channelled towards road rehabilitation and maintenance through authorities such as urban councils, rural district councils, District Development Fund (DDF) and the Department of Roads.

Alive to the urgency required in guaranteeing an efficient road infrastructure for Zimbabweans, the ministry strongly encourages and pursues Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs), which have seen some roads being set aside for such ventures. These include Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, Mvurwi-Guruve-Kanyemba and Gweru-Zvishavane-Rutenga-Boli-Sango.

Since Independence in 1980, the transport sector in Zimbabwe has been going through massive transformation. The liberalisation of the sector in the early 1990s opened up spaces for more indigenous players in the sector. Business opportunities and employment opportunities were created for citizens.

It may be that only about 20 percent of the country's road network is surfaced, and the rest are gravel or earth roads, but the Second Republic ushered in a new dawn to the transport sector through road construction projects that are underway across the country.

The New Dispensation has committed to road infrastructure by up-scaling investment in the form of Public Sector Investment Programmes (PSIPs). The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development allocated nearly $2,2 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges countrywide in the 2020 National Budget.

Road construction projects are non-inflationary and have positive multiplier effects on the economy. Research on global trends shows that huge investments in infrastructure can, if there is unity of purpose, give a country a lifeline by pulling it out of recession.

Recessions are not new, neither are they unique to developing countries. The 2008/2009 economic downturn did not spare developed countries. They were, however, able to rebuild their economies through investments in infrastructure. Zimbabwe needs such investments, and the starting point is inculcating a shared vision in citizens. In this vision every citizen should put shoulders to the wheel. Building of roads and bridges as is the case in all relationships begins with the understanding that no man is an island, and that a return journey is only possible if the initial voyage is undertaken.

All has to start from somewhere; brick by brick, heart to heart, and with all eyes on the ball.

The ministry keeps on learning; from past experiences and from others, so that the ultimate winner is the common good. More feasibility studies, therefore, are underway for other road construction projects to make them bankable for private sector participation. Investor lethargy towards road development in Zimbabwe can only be checked if Zimbabweans as a collective take active participation in the development of their country.

New entrepreneurs, particularly young people and women should participate in tenders for road maintenance and rehabilitation. It is this proactive approach that goes a long way in attracting investors.

Development partners and donors have been unwavering in their support towards the construction of physical infrastructure in Zimbabwe. The Government extols institutions such as JICA for their support in the rehabilitation and upgrading of sections of the Makuti-Chirundu Road.

Following the Cyclone Idai calamity, development partners and donors have been conspicuous by their support in road rehabilitation.

Development partners and donors also gave a lot of support for road rehabilitation after Cyclone Idai which has led to the restoration of most roads and bridges in the south-eastern part of the country.

Zimbabwe is a land-locked country, therefore, for economic tangibles to be realised the need arises for the establishment of sufficient links to seaports. Dry ports facilities are apt in the promotion of trade that spurs economic development. The Government was not lost to this inventiveness which it adopted, and through private players, developed a container port facility in Mutare. Also, the country launched the Walvis Bay Dry Port in Namibia.

Another downside of poor road infrastructure is loss of life to traffic accidents. With estimates indicating that three percent of the country's GDP is lost yearly due to road carnage, not only are families burdened due to loss of breadwinners, but Government reels from the dearth of economically productive citizens.

Cognisant of the need for ensuring road safety to curb loss of lives on the country's roads, the ministry is guided by the systems approach which hinges on partnership, collaboration and coordination.

Surprisingly, Africa has the thinnest volume of traffic in comparison to developed continents, yet it records the highest number of road accidents year-in-year-out. Africa losses 650 lives every day as a result of road accidents. On average five people are killed and 38 others are injured on Zimbabwe's roads daily.

About 90 percent of road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe are attributable to human error. Therefore, they are preventable. The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) which is under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development's domain is mandated to promote road safety through safety education, training, publicity and research.

Since accidents claim the lives of a productive demography of Zimbabwe, between age 16 and 45, the TSCZ leads safety awareness campaigns countrywide aimed at reducing road carnage.

Guided by the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, Zimbabwe targets to reduce road traffic deaths by 50 percent or less by 2030 through an inclusive approach that factors in all citizens, including traditional leaders, politicians and parliamentarians.

Leading by example, the First Family has supported the call for shared obligation and action in support of road safety initiatives in Zimbabwe since 2019.

On December 16, 2019, the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, led an inspiring toll plaza/roadside festive season campaign. She has also extended the need to guarantee road safety by supporting women and young people. In March, 2020, she launched Women and Youth Driver Training Programme in Mashonaland East which will be rolled out in all provinces before the end of 2020.

In 2020, TSCZ aims to reach 12 million road users, and train more than 35 000 drivers and instructors. The agency will digitise road information as it embraces the use of information communication technology (ICT) for wide coverage.

The ministry has prioritised road safety in its 2020 Strategic Plan. To that end, it has participated at international road safety platforms like the Stockholm Conference, the 82nd Annual Session of the Inland Transport Committee (ITC) organised by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) that was held in Geneva, Switzerland and the Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm, Sweden.

In 2016, Zimbabwe adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For these SDGs to be achieved, a good road network is required.

Climate change continues to impede road infrastructure development which calls for vigorous response mechanisms. Solid roads and bridges are vital in the attainment of SDGs, particularly SDG 9 that implores countries to have strong infrastructure by 2030.

The Government has drawn lessons from the March 2019 Cyclone Idai disaster that washed away major bridges and road links in the south-eastern part of Zimbabwe. Through research, alternatives are continuously sought in line with identifying viable and strong compounds and materials for use in road construction.

It is the ministry's obligation to ferry the people of Zimbabwe's dreams as enshrined in national Vision 2030 promulgated by President Mnangagwa, to achieve an upper middle income economy by 2030, and to fulfil this, attainment of SDGs is supreme.

Efforts have also been made to recapitalise the national airline, Air Zimbabwe which has been weighed down by aged and depleted fleet. Towards that goal, Government acquired a B777 aircraft in 2016, which was handed over to Air Zimbabwe on January 20, 2020. To complement the B777 Government plans to acquire three additional smaller aircraft to service the domestic and regional routes as feeder to the long haul plane.

To date an Embraer RJ145 has been acquired and regulatory processes are underway for its operationalisation. This is in line with the Strategic Turnaround Plan, which was developed by Grant Thornton who is the Administrator of the national airline.

To arrest corruption and keep pace with technological trends in line with the aspirations of Vision 2030, the ministry implemented proactive strategies at the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID).

The electronic learner's licence testing (ELLT) was launched at VID Eastlea (Harare) on April 15, 2019. The system has been rolled out to VID Bulawayo and VID Chiredzi, while plans are in place to cover the remaining 19 depots in due course.

In addition, VID depots are grouped into three categories; small, medium and big, respectively for purposes of analysing their performance.

The strategy facilitates the monitoring of performance of each depot, and identification of the existence of wayward behaviour through daily, weekly and monthly returns and reports analysis. Through the strategy 54 errant officers were exposed as corrupt and were dismissed. Five VID depots were involved, namely: Chiredzi which issued 199 driver's licences to undeserving applicants that were subsequently cancelled by the ministry; VID Nyamapanda, VID Chinhoyi, VID Marondera and VID Kadoma were found to have been issuing Certificates of Fitness to undeserving vehicles.

Furthermore, in line with SADC harmonisation of standards for testing drivers, the ministry constructed, SADC standard hill-starts, 3-point-turn facilities, parallel parking facilities and reversing facilities in all VID yards. This approach enhances transparency and fairness by ensuring that 80 percent of the test is done in the yard in full glare of members of the public, thus, reducing corruption. The other 20 percent of the test is done in town where senior officials carry out random quality control checks to minimise corrupt tendencies.

Although the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is financially burdened, plans are afoot to resuscitate the parastatal. The resuscitation efforts received a major boost in February, 2020, after Government guaranteed the payment of the initial US$1,5 million required to facilitate the delivery of 100 wagons and 40 locomotives by a Russian firm, United Wagon Company, the second largest manufacturer of railway rolling stock globally.

NRZ and the United Wagon Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding during President Mnangagwa's visit to Sochi, Russia in 2019.

The deal involves the setting up of a plant to assemble wagons and locomotives in Zimbabwe for sale to other SADC countries, and the provision of rolling stock for NRZ.

In three years, NRZ is expected to have received 300 wagons from Russia.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) is on the rebound through route development and opening up of the skies to domestic and foreign players. CAAZ has also completed the refurbishment, to world class standards, of Victoria Falls International Airport and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo, to ensure safety and security as well as up-to-date training facilities.

The terrain may have been bumpy and steep at times as landscapes are wont to, but the mileposts so far passed in the journey embarked on 40 years ago to ferry Zimbabweans' dreams to boundless possibilities, are worth of collective celebration.

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