GOVERNMENT has decided to go it alone and dualise the Chirundu-Harare-Beitbridge Highway while talks with Chinese Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group Limited (Afecc) for the $2 billion tender continue, Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza said yesterday.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Matiza told NewsDay that government’s decision had been inspired by the need to not only keep jobs locally, but also the money.
“Cabinet decided that the Department of Roads immediately commences work on the road rehabilitation, while negotiations with a private partner continue. There is already $150 million raised through an Old Mutual bond that will help us kick-start works,” he said.
“Government has also decided that local construction companies with the requisite expertise will be engaged as sub-contractors. This decision means as a country struggling with foreign currency issues, we will keep the money in Zimbabwe as well as the jobs.”
Government, Matiza added, is also working at raising more funds for the road as well as others.
“We are already in the process of raising more money for the dualisation of this road and the rehabilitation of others,” the Transport minister said.
Initial estimates claimed the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway would cost a staggering $2 billion if a private partner was engaged, but this figure would come done to around $1,4 billion when the works are undertaken by government.
Afecc was stopped from mining diamonds in Manicaland by then President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2016 to allow for the consolidation of diamond operations in the area.
Afecc was jointly extracting diamonds in Chiadzwa with the military through fellow Chinese company Anjin Investments.
Matiza, however, said negotiations for a partnership with Afecc would continue until an agreement is reached.
“As regards Afecc, we will continue talking to them. As and when we reach an agreement, it means the scope of works would have been reduced. On the other hand, government is cognisant of the fact that this is a national project that our people want government to deliver,” he said.
“The rainy season is upon us and this road that has claimed so many lives is in a deplorable state. We cannot continue dithering. We cannot remain stuck in talks, while nothing happens on the ground. We must start work and start immediately.”
Reports in the past have claimed Afecc had already been awarded the tender following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s visit to China during which he held talks with his counterpart, Xi Jinping.
The tender was initially awarded to Austrian firm Geiger International and its Chinese partner China Harbour Engineering Company (Chec) Ltd.
However, Geiger failed to raise the requiered money and the tender was cancelled amid reports the company had strong links with Mugabe and his family as well as a coterie of Cabinet ministers who had lined up to benefit from the deal.