Take action on abusers of roads funds

Part of Binga road which was damaged by floods

A COMMON scene on Zimbabwean roads is that of motorists stranded on the roadside as a result of tyre punctures.

One may be forgiven for assuming that vehicle manufacturers are doing a disservice to the buying public.

But no.

It is probably only in Zimbabwe that hundreds of cars are affected by tyre bursts on a daily basis. An extensive decay of roads has reshaped driving experience in Zimbabwe.

Drivers barely travel for 500 metres without plunging into potholes that have developed in the middle of the roads following the worst levels of neglect ever experienced.

What residents call potholes today are not potholes but gullies that have developed in our roads, which have turned into death traps for motorists and graveyards for old Japanese-made cars imported by citizens to fend for their families after economic mismanagement triggered wholesale firm closures.

They use the old cars as public transport. Sadly, while their vehicles are being damaged due to sheer dereliction of duty by local authorities and central government, they find themselves paying through the nose towards the road fund.

It costs a motorist US$1 to park a car in central Harare for an hour. While passage fees at Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara)-run tollgates are as high as US$2 for light motor vehicles.

Zinara is one of the richest State firms, but its funds are abused by greedy sharks at the expense of the purpose for which it was set up. Its executives are frequent guests at the courts facing embezzlement charges. Local authority bosses have been fired, suspended or arrested for looting ratepayers’ funds that must be used in road construction and rehabilitation.

Zimbabwe requires US$30 billion to rebuild its entire road infrastructure following years of neglect.

Government has declared the road network a national disaster. But this is not enough, the State should go beyond rhetoric and fish out the crooks that have stolen funds meant for road rehabilitation, throw them behind bars, put in place checks and balances in local authorities administration and scout for private partners to rebuild the country’s dilapidated road network.

In the meantime, efforts to recover looted  funds must be scaled up to send a strong message to would-be looters that crime does not pay. Otherwise, the rot will spiral out of control.