Zinara committed to improve major roads amid limited resources


By Maxwell Mapungwana
“My tomatoes are rotting by the roadside as I cannot get transport in time to take them to Mutare where they have a ready market. I have spent two nights sleeping in the open hoping that I will get transport, but alas over half of them have gone bad,” said Tambudzai Mapanga (not her real name) from Honde Valley in Manicaland province.


Mapanga said her problem is a result of the bad roads which are characterized by potholes. She said as a result of the incessant rains that pounded the area during the past rainy season some huge yawning holes were left dotted along the main highway.
Transporters are now shying away from using the route resulting in the farmers failing to take their tomatoes to the market in time.
Not only Mapanga or Honde Valley are faced with such a problem, but the situation is the same in almost all the provinces in the country.
Poor road network is affecting business in the remote parts of the country where some rain-damaged roads have become impassable and this has impacted negatively in the distribution of food aid in some perennial drought-prone areas in the country.
The high rate of accidents particularly along Harare-Masvingo highway have been attributed to lack of dual carriageway system along the road.
The country needs to swiftly move towards improving infrastructure if it is to attract meaningful foreign direct investment. Inquiries from potential investors in various countries were being made over the past years, but could not materialize due to poor and inefficient infrastructure e.g. poor rail transport network, poor road network and poor communication systems.
The Zimbabwe National Road Authority (ZINARA), the State body responsible for raising funds for road maintenance and construction is doing the little it can with limited resources to save the situation.
The former minister of Transport and Communications which is now Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development under whose jurisdiction Zinara falls once said as the ministry continue to face many financial constraints, he also continues to be innovative and one such way was the introduction of new vehicle number plates whose proceeds are being channeled towards road maintenance.
The Ministry also introduced toll gates along all major highways leading to major towns and cities and the engagement of the private sector in road projects, a development that has seen Zinara coffers drastically improving.
The Ministry also introduced the Road Network Access fee, collected at boarder posts, which also go towards the rehabilitation of roads.
In 2001 the government established the National Road Fund to raise money for the maintenance and construction of national roads. Before that, funds for such purposes were allocated in the National Budget, but these had become increasingly difficult to secure due to competing demands on the fiscus, Zinara administers the Zimbabwe Road Fund, through which it disburses money to road authorities throughout the country depending on the size of the road network under their jurisdiction.
Road authorities include urban and rural district councils, the District Development Fund (DDF) and the Department of Roads.
In May this year the government signed a US$206 million deal with the Development Bank of Southern Africa for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Plumtree-Mutare highway. From Plumtree, the 800km road covers Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Kadoma, Harare and Rusape up to Mutare.
This follows the formation of Infralink, a joint venture company between the Zinara and Group Five International of Southern Africa. Zinara has a 70 percent shareholding in the joint venture while Group Five International has 30 percent.
Group Five International is a renowned company that has constructed major highways and airports in Southern Africa.
As Zinara woes seem to be over, some local vehicle owners are doing it a huge disservice as it is losing over US$20 million in potential revenue yearly to motorists who fail to buy vehicle licences although they use the country’s roads. Fake licence disks printed cheaply on computer printers are used to get vehicles through police road blocks and other checks.
To plug the loopholes, the authority now seeks to introduce a new computerized system to ensure all owners on the country’s over 700 000 vehicles pay their licences. According to Zinara it is collecting a paltry US$5 million every year from about 300 000 vehicles instead of US$40 million from over 700 000 vehicles registered with the Central Vehicle Registry.
Zinara says it intends to close all loopholes so that all revenue is accounted for so that they in turn improve the roads to world class standards as well as constructing new roads in remote areas said Mr. Frank Chitukutuku theZinara CEO.
The system which he says should be fully operational by September this year would have a database of all motorists maintained at Zimpost, the official distributor  of vehicle licence discs.






 

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