THE Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat)’s 2023 4th quarter figures on the number of vehicles registered for the first in the country are quite revealing.

 ZimStat tells us that 27 441 vehicles, representing a 32,6% increase, were registered for the first time in Zimbabwe during the last quarter of 2023 and nearly 80% of them were light motor vehicles.

“The number of light motor vehicles registered for the first time increased by 34,8% from 14 405 during the third quarter 2023 to 21 550, in the 4th quarter 2023,” says ZimStat.

These figures are so telling that they should send alarm bells ringing madly to prompt authorities to scramble and do something about the state of the country’s roads which have long proved to be completely incapable of handling high volumes of cars.

As of last year, Zimbabwe reportedly had well over 1,5 million vehicles, the bulk of which are in the capital Harare, where vehicular traffic congestion is now a nightmare.

The issue of the rapidly rising number of vehicles in Zimbabwe should be treated as a serious matter because — looking at ZimStats figures on road traffic accidents — the phenomenal rise is corresponding to the rising road accidents.

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“Road traffic accidents increased by 7,9% from 12 564 reported in 3rd quarter to 13 552 in 4th quarter 2023. The 13 552 road traffic accidents that were reported during 4th quarter 2023 resulted in 553 deaths and 2 663 injuries,” ZimStat has told us.

The glaring correlation should be a major cause for concern which should persuade the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority and local authorities to promptly do something about the state of our roads which is obviously a major contributing factor to the accidents.

One major issue about our roads is that they all, except for a very tiny fraction, date back to the colonial era and for the past 44 years they have progressively regressed from being pristine to almost impassable.

It is quite worrying that our road planners are in deep slumber with little to no indication that they will wake up any time soon to expand our roads, especially in urban areas to accommodate more vehicular traffic which is proportionally increasing with the country’s population.

We cannot still be relying of road infrastructure created half a century ago which was ideal to cater for the pre-independence population of less than seven million people who owned a couple of thousands of cars. Proof that our road planners are dead asleep abounds with, for instance, the Mbudzi Interchange in Harare being the perfect immediate example.

When the project, meant to ease traffic jams at the major junction on the highway to South Africa, started we were told that it would take two years to complete. Why in God’s name should a relatively simply interchange take that long to complete?

This reminds us of another road expansion project, the Harare to Norton dualisation which took government an incredible 20 years to complete 40 kilometres, meaning that we progressed at a tortoise’s pace of two kilometres per year.

There are many projects gathering dust in government drawers meant to ease vehicular congestion in the country such as the US$1 billion Harare-Chitungwiza railway line, which never saw the light of day despite being commissioned amid pomp and fanfare in the late 1980s. It is now an unbelievable 38 years since the 1986 initial project assessment and traffic between Harare and its Chitungwiza dormitory town keeps piling.

By the way, what happened to the Harare bypass, yet another multi-million dollar project in limbo?.

Under such circumstances it then makes us super sceptical that our roads will ever be upgraded anytime soon, which spells real disaster ahead on our roads.