BULAWAYO, April 27 (The Source) — Construction of the dualised Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu highway is expected to start next month, with the project expected to be complete in three years.
The Zimbabwe government signed agreements November last year with Austrian contractor Geiger International and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for the $2,3 billion projects.
“In the first or second week of May, the President (Robert Mugabe) will be launching or groundbreaking the commencement of the construction or the dualisation of road from Beitbridge to Harare to Chirundu,” Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told delegates at the Zimbabwe International Business Conference in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
The highway is Zimbabwe’s busiest and most economically significant, and 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.
The project is expected to take up to three years and will be carried out in two phases. The first section will be from Beitbridge to Harare, which will be done under a Public Private Partnership/ Build Operate and Transfer model.
The Harare-Chirundu section will be done through a loan facility.
The Beitbridge highway has been in use for over 56 years, way beyond its design life of 20 years. Efforts to rehabilitate the highway, whose state of disrepair has cost many lives in traffic accidents, have been held back by claims of corruption and bribery.
Government initially awarded the contract to ZimHighways, a consortium of 14 firms that included Murray & Roberts, Costain Africa, Kuchi Building Construction, Tarcon, Bitcon, Joina Development Company and Southland Engineers back in 2003.
However, the project never took off as bickering erupted between the government and the consortium. Government accused the contractors of failing to put up the money for the project, while ZimHighways accused government officials of demanding bribes.
In 2013, after government announced plans to hand the project to a new contractor, citing ZimHighways’ failure to start the project, the consortium took the government to court.
It only dropped its lawsuit in 2015, on condition that the consortium members would be sub-contracted for the project, allowing government to float a new tender.