HomeLocal NewsRural roads in deplorable condition

Rural roads in deplorable condition

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The festive season is upon us and it is a dream for many people to visit their rural homes. But for many the major setback is the state of roads in rural areas.

Some roads have become inaccessible and bus drivers have to meticulously negotiate their way or risk accidents.

“I would love to go to my rural home for the holidays, but the problem is the bus which used to ply the route has since ceased to operate because of the state of the road. I have to use an alternative route which means I have to complete my journey after walking about 23km and that means it would be difficult to carry any groceries with me,” said Takunda Zvoda whose rural home is in Gokwe.

Most roads in rural areas are gravel (dirt roads) and during the rainy season, they are washed away. Gullies and dongas have rendered some roads inaccessible, forcing rural folk to walk several kilometres to get transport.

In Hurungwe, most farmers said they were finding it difficult to transport their crops to relevant depots because of the state of roads.

“Lorries which used to carry our agricultural produce have since stopped to operate here; they complain roads destroy their vehicles, so we have to carry our produce using scotchcarts to Magunje, where there is a tarred road,” said Alfred Marumahoko.

Other farmers said the deplorable conditions of roads had caused the quality of their produce to drop because of the manner in which it is transported.

“We grow tobacco and it’s a very delicate crop. It needs to be handled with care when transporting to Harare, but under the conditions, it loses its value,” complained Marumahoko.

A bus owner who used to ply the Harare- Hurungwe route said he had decided to change and use the Harare-Bulawayo road instead because of the condition of the roads.

“It was not making any business sense because most of the time I had to service the bus and replace some of the damaged parts while tires would be worn out within a single trip,” said the bus owner.

A rural councillor Bigboy Gumbira urged the District Development Fund (DDF) to maintain rural roads because it was one of the reasons why businesses were failing to invest in rural areas.

“Good roads are the pulling factor for investment. Teachers are refusing to be deployed here because of poor roads. We urge the government and DDF to maintain roads so that we do not have a situation where sick people are forced to walk long distances to be attended to at clinics,” said Gumbira.

Some bridges have been washed away by rain and it has taken many years before renovations were done.

“Some of the roads are in relatively good condition, but the problem is that bridges were washed away by Cyclone Eline in early 2000 and nothing has been done to repair them,” added Gumbira.

Since 1980, DDF has been responsible for establishing all-weather road access throughout rural areas of Zimbabwe. DDF has implemented the planning, selection, construction and/or reconstruction and establishment of proper periodic and routine maintenance for an estimated 25 000km of rural roads throughout Zimbabwe.

These activities were carried out under a comprehensive Rural Road Programme which was co-funded by the Zimbabwe and Germany governments.

One of the notable achievements of this programme was successful establishment of the “Routine Road Maintenance System” developed during the implementation of the construction programme.

It has now established full road maintenance on an estimated 25 000km of road. This system is fully funded by the government of Zimbabwe.

However, an official from DDF said the fund was affected by the decade-long economic meltdown in the country.

“We have been maintaining the roads, but some of the roads have deteriorated over the years because at one point we could not even access fuel to power our tractors. But the situation has improved immensely and we are carrying routine road maintenance countrywide,” said the official.

The government is in a quandary over how to effectively deal with its deplorable road network amid revelations about $2,5 billion is needed to rehabilitate it. Speaking in Bulawayo during a Budget consultative meeting, Finance minister Tendai Biti said the country’s road network was terrible and needed urgent attention. The minister said Zimbabwe “has become the pothole capital of the world”.

“Our road network covers 90 000km, but only 17% of it is paved,” Biti said. He added it was regrettable countries like Malawi now had better roads than Zimbabwe.

“Malawi has a road network of about 15 000km and about 40% of it has been paved,” he said, adding it was more worrying of the country’s 17% paved roads, most of them were in a disastrous state.

“We need about $2, 5 billion to deal with our major road networks.”

The government lacks the capacity to re-develop the road network and Biti called on private partners to invest. The upcoming plans to expand the country’s busiest roads from the Plumtree and Beitbridge border posts will begin soon, according to the minister.

“Thankfully the government has found a private partner for the expansion of the Plumtree-Mutare road and we hope work will begin soon,” he said.

This month the Development Bank of South Africa signed a $206 million loan agreement with Zimbabwe for road infrastructural development.

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