BY REX MPHISA
GOVERNMENT has started preparatory work to construct the Rutenga-Sango Border Post Highway, with tenders expected to be flighted “soon”, a top official has disclosed.
The 150km stretch from Rutenga to Sango will join an already developed road to Xai Xai, where a US$3 billion port is being developed with the help of the Chinese.
In an interview with Southern Eye last week, a government official responsible for national roads, Kudzanayi Chinyanga said environmental impact assessments were underway to pave way for the flighting of the tenders for contractors.
“The road you are talking about is already being worked on. You will realise it passes through a game park and the environmental study has to be considerate of that. It is being done at the moment and come June, tenders will be flighted,” he said.
Chinyanga said this had been necessitated by the fact that the Mutare-Beira Highway has been rendered impassable after it was devastated by Cyclone Idai, leading to commercial traffic, including fuel carriers from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being re-routed through Beitbridge.
Cyclone Idai, which claimed hundreds of lives in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, extensively damaged Beira City and the road linking that town with Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe, Zambia and the DRC rely on the Beira port for fuel supplies and fuel tankers have been redirected through Beitbridge.
“We have to come through Beitbridge because the route via Mutare to Beira was extensively damaged,” a Zambian truck driver told the Southern Eye.
The Rutenga-Xai-Xai route would have provided a shorter option and when developed and will bring the Indian Ocean nearer to Botswana and the south western parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
It is understood Botswana is keen on the new route. Though this has not been confirmed, Harare and Gaborone are reportedly in discussions on the route with the existing railway line between Xai Xai and Rutenga set for upgrade in anticipation of increased traffic. The route will also decongest both Durban and Beira ports.
Xai-Xai, formerly João Belo port, lies on the eastern bank of the Limpopo River.
It is a market centre for cashew nuts, rice, maize, cassava, and sorghum grown in the surrounding area irrigated by the lower Limpopo irrigation project where dairy farming also thrives.
It will spur development in western Mozambican where the Limpopo corridor stretches to Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
Development of the Rutenga-Sango route will also open up tourism in the south eastern TransFrontier National Park shared by Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.