BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
GOVERNMENT has unveiled a programme to design and build several bridges across the country, with independent designers set to clinch crucial deals.
Transactions under the programme announced last week will be important in helping firms pull through a difficult 2021, which kicked off with the escalation of a COVID-19-induced health crisis that has forced government to announce a fresh lockdown.
But the lockdowns could further delay massive infrastructure rehabilitation projects after scores of roads and bridges were destroyed by Cyclone Idai in 2019, with many more affected by years of maladministration.
Cyclone Idai destruction added to a two-decade roads crisis, which hit the country when over US$300 million worth of roads and bridges were swept away by previous storms, including Cyclone Eline in 2000.
On Thursday, the Transport and Infrastructrual Development ministry said it was looking for firms with capacity to undertake national and regional projects to submit expressions of interest to help government rebuild hundreds of ruined bridges and pacify millions of socially-excluded and concerned Zimbabweans.
“The Department of Roads in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development invites eligible consulting firms to indicate their interest in providing preliminary and detailed engineering design of various bridges,” read part of the projects document.
“The prospective independent engineer may constitute joint ventures, where necessary to enhance their capacity to undertake the assignment.”
A revamp of the national road system, together with bridges, forms part of a comprehensive programme announced by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in November under the 2021 Zimbabwe Infrastructure Investment Programme.
Under the programme, $31,6 billion will be released from the fiscus in 2021, with a further $24,1 billion coming from Road Fund interventions, according to the report, which says a further $629 million will come from development partners.
The Harare-Beitbridge Highway project is expected to guzzle most of the funding, with an allocation of $10 billion to help it meet a 2022 completion target.
“Under the North South Corridor Improvement Project, the Japanese government will invest US$20,6 million to upgrade six kilometres on the Harare-Chirundu Road, Makuti-Hellsgate Section,” Ncube said in the infrastructure plan.
“During 2021, an amount of $527 million will be disbursed towards the project, with Phase I expected to be completed during 2021. Furthermore, the African Development Bank is providing support towards rehabilitation of damaged road infrastructure in Chimanimani to the tune of $102 million during 2021, under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project. Other regional trunk road projects, implemented through the Department of Roads, have an allocation of $12,9 billion, targeting upgrading works for identified roads in provinces. Re-gravelling of feeder roads and related bridge construction works have been allocated $928 million, to be implemented through the District Development Fund,” he said.