Govt bureaucracy stalls US$150M Old Gwanda road project

Bureaucracy in some government departments has stalled the implementation of a US$150 million project to rehabilitate Old Gwanda Road into a modern highway.

The road project is expected to immensely benefit people from Matabeleland South province through employment creation, domestic tourism and business opportunities.

The stakeholders met in Bulawayo, Saturday, for an update and consultative meeting on the progress of the project.

The meeting was attended by politicians, traditional leaders, local authorities and government officials as well as representatives from the spearheading company-Zwane Enterprises.

Chief Executive Officer of Zwane Enterprise, Engineer Bekithemba Mbambo, complained that there was a hold-up in some of the government offices.

Eng Mbambo said some of the procedures had already been approved but some offices were taking longer to approve some processes and this was affecting the commencement of implementation.

“So far, the process that has been holding us back was the approval from the government. We have been engaging them but there has not yet been any approval until about three days ago when we got the approval to do a feasibility study,” he told CITE in a sideline interview after the meeting.

“But that study would just be half of what we are supposed to do. We hope that after the study we do not meet more bureaucracy where we are marked for small things until we all drop dead before talking about the next step forward. We have taken about 16 months to get here, we don’t want to take another 16 months before proceeding fully.”

After the feasibility study is done, Eng Mbambo said, according to the guidelines they were given, they are supposed to submit draft concession agreements, which are the fundamental agreements between them and government.

“So once those are done and approved, and we sign everything, the next step would be implementation. We hope that from the end of the feasibility study to the approval of the draft concession agreement it will take a short time,” he said.

“A week for us would actually be too long. If we take longer, we will be beyond elections, then the project can be construed as having deceived people as an election gimmick. We want the ground breaking and the beginning of the project to be before elections.”

Chief Khulumani Mathema of Gwanda, hailed the project and urged political leaders to assist by knocking on the relevant government doors to expedite the approval process.

“As traditional leaders, we are 110 percent behind this project. The issue of bureaucracy should be looked into, we can’t have a debate over road construction for over 16 months. The construction of the road will take only six months so technically speaking if everything had gone according to plan that road would have been operational for ten months now,” he said.

“There shall be various things that will need to be done, such as resettling people. This will need to be done in a manner that will observe people’s way of life. For example, there may be graves at homes of people who might be resettled, so which means there shall be exhumations. We will need professional people to carry out the process and also to offer psycho-social support to the affected families.

Chief Mathema added: “Local employment is going to assist our people. Most youths are affected by unemployment and they end up becoming drunkards. Having jobs will give them a sense of responsibility. Creation of employment will also enable our young people who are in neighbouring countries to come back home and get employment locally.”

Member of Parliament for Umzingwane, Levy Mayihlome, said the project is important and will bring much-needed development to their community.

“On several occasions, the government has provided funds and materials to fix the roads but after several months the roads would be dilapidated again. This project will see to it that the road will be well constructed and it will greatly enhance Matabeleland region. We need to work together to ensure that this project doesn’t die as a dream but actually becomes reality,” he said.

Bulawayo Mayor, Solomon Mguni, who was also present at the meeting said the project will also benefit the Bulawayo business community.

“This is a great project that will benefit Bulawayo businesses immensely. There are some companies that are struggling to stay in in business at the moment, with the coming of such businesses, we will definitely see improvement on the business side,” he said.

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