HARARE, September 10 (The Source) – Transport minister Obert Mpofu says Zimbabwe is actively seeking a new contractor to rehabilitate the Harare-Beitbridge highway after reaching an agreement to terminate the contract with a consortium that was initially awarded the tender early this month.
“This is a very important project for us as it facilitates trade in the region. No one has been awarded a tender yet, but we have received very exciting proposals from both local and international companies,” Mpofu told journalists on Wednesday during a tour of the new road to link the Harare International Airport and the central business district.
Last month, the government invited bids for the preliminary and detailed engineering design of highway which has been segmented into four sections — Harare to Chivhu (120 km), Chivhu to Masvingo (147 km), Masvingo to Rutenga (149 km) and Rutenga to Beitbridge (135km).
The $1.3 billion rehabilitation of the highway — Zimbabwe’s busiest and most economically significant, is part of the North-South Corridor that directly links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia with access to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.
In 2003, President Robert Mugabe’s government awarded the Zimhighways Consortium – made up of 14 construction firms including Murray & Roberts, Costain Africa, Kuchi Building Construction, Tarcon, Bitcon, Joina Development Company and Southland Engineers – the tender for the dualisation of the highway.
The project never took off, amid accusations and counter-accusations between government and the consortium. The government said the consortium had failed to prove it had the financial wherewithal to execute the project, while Zimhighways accused government officials of demanding bribes and throwing spanners in its works.
The consortium also accused the government of going behind its back to negotiate a separate deal with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), with which Zimhighways had agreed on a funding plan.
Early this month the feuding parties announced that they had reached an agreement to drop the court case and clear the way for the rehabilitation of the highway.
Mpofu said the winning firm would have to start work quickly, and would have a precondition that most of the work be contracted to locals.
“We want to ensure that about 60 percent of the work that will be done by the winning company will be sub-contracted to locals. We don’t want that company to bring its own employees here,” he said.
The Harare-Beitbridge road has been in use for over 55 years, beyond its design life of 20 years and is now in an advanced state of disrepair.