Road maintenance backlog spans 30 years

By Tinashe Mungazi

THE bad state of the country’s roads has been blamed on a maintenance backlog dating back 30 years.

Some sections of provincial roads have not been maintained or serviced over a cumulative period of between 20-30 year a situation that has been blamed by authorities for the demise of road infrastructure.

President Mnangagwa declared the country’s roads a state of disaster following heavy rains that worsened their condition thereby facilitating government intervention as local authorities struggled to attend to roads within their jurisdiction.

According to Matabeleland North provincial roads engineer in the Ministry of Transport, Stephen Kamutema this was also contributing towards the state of the country’s roads.

“When we did a road survey we noted that the bad state of the country’s roads was also attributed to inadequate road maintenance. We have some roads that have a maintenance backlog dating back 20-30 years. This kind of intervention by the government is commendable and will go a long way in addressing the maintenance backlog issue, ” he said.

Eng. Kamutema who was speaking during a tour of St Mary’s-Luseche road on Thursday which was undergoing rehabilitation by Minister of Energy and Power Development Soda Zhemu, said 90 percent of the province’s roads were in a poor to bad state worsened by the incessant rains experienced earlier in the year.

“The general state of the roads are in a fair to bad condition. In Matabeleland North, 90 percent are in a poor condition which was further exacerbated by the floods that we experienced during the rainy season. Our wish is that this becomes a sustainable model that can be followed for maximum impact as this will eliminate the backlog. “

One of such roads was the 39km stretch of road linking St Mary’s-Luseche with the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo road. The incessant rains that pounded the country exacerbated the poor state of the road making some sections impassable.

This resulted in communities such as Luseche, Bhale and Nekabandama failing to access services such as health care, education and other social amenities as public transporters began to shun the route. This also saw delays in food aid reaching the areas forcing villagers to walk up and down mountains to reach Hwange town.

Zhemu said government had availed $26 million towards the rehabilitation of the road with a 4.5km stretch having been tarred with the assistance of Chinese, Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company.

The company which runs a coke oven plant in St Mary’s had been underfire for failing to honor up to its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pledge of tarring a section of the road. Due to the increase in vehicular movement using the St Mary’s-Luseche road mostly by haulage trucks, villagers, a school and hospital were subjected to air and noise pollution.

“Government continues to work towards ensuring that our roads are traffic able following the state of damage that was exacerbated by the heavy rains we experienced across the country. I’m here to monitor the road that was rehabilitated by DDF under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) which was launched by the President after there was an observation that most roads in the country were in a bad state. So the purpose of this visit is to assess the amount of work undertaken on the St Mary’s-Luseche road given that there are funds that were availed for the project about USD26 million. We have seen a great deal of work having been done so far and we are are happy with the progress, ” said Zhemu.

He said as a result of the rehabilitation exercise communities that had been cut off due to the state of the road could now access social amenities and continue to benefit from various projects being implemented by government and development partners.

Hwange DDF coordinator, Fidelia Lumano appealed to government for more funding and fuel which she argued was difficult to obtain in local currency leading to delays in implementation of projects in the district.

The scope of work done so far on the St Mary’s-Luseche road includes grading, reshaping, culvert construction, bridge repairs, venting and bush clearing among other things.

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