By Owen Mandovha
More than 300 kilometers of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway is now open to the motoring public, just over two years after local contractors started road works for the first major rehabilitation of the highway since independence.
It had been more than 60 years since any major upgrade and widening of the Harare Masvingo Beitbridge highway, with government finally breaking the duck in October 2019 just over a year into the Second Republic.
Riding on government’s robust infrastructure drive, the highway has received a major facelift with prospects that days of agonisingly dangerous travels on the 580-kilometer highway which had become a death trap, will soon be a thing of the past.
The positive impact of these major road works has been felt by a cross-section of society, including unemployed young villagers and surrounding communities.
One villager said, “As villagers we can see what the government is doing and it has brought development to our local communities. It shows that we have a President who cares about its people.”
“I am a vendor here and we have been witnessing a lot of accidents so if the road is completed we hope that these accidents will be reduced.” said one vendor.
A local youth is happy with the employment opportunity, “I am female and just 21 years old, I am employed here where my job is to stabilise the surface. I did not have hope about the future and when the company came it has given me a lifetime opportunity.”
“My family can now depend on me for their livelihoods because of this job,” said another villager.
Regular road users, including cross border drivers are thrilled by the quality of the smooth roads as over 300 kilometers is now open to motorists.
Two drivers echoed their appreciation of the roadworks, “Everyone here is agreeable that what is happening is great and I see a problem with doubters because we have never seen this before”, “The quality of the roads is exceptional and it is now easy going”
The bold decision by government to trust local contractors is now paying dividends as they have demonstrated unmatched capacity in rehabilitating one of Southern Africa’s key trade routes.
“Bitumen World has completed 68 kilometers of the roads and we have applied to Government for another 20 kilometers. Since we started in October Government has supported us and the move to trust us as local companies is great because it is creating a huge skills base to undertake major road works,” said Mr Bigboy Sibindi, Site Manager, Bitumen World.
“The project has afforded us the opportunity to demonstrate our competitiveness as an indigenous company and we are working very hard to meet Government’s targets and we will celebrate as having successfully completed this major road,” said Mr Ginny Muchenje, Site Manage, Exodus and Company.
According to the latest government update, focus is on completing the remaining 280 kilometers within the next 24 months.
The Second Republic has become synonymous with an aggressive infrastructure development programme which is being pursued at an unprecedented scale and the Harare Masvingo Beitbridge Highway has become the hallmark of that journey as Zimbabwe marches towards meeting its aspirations of attaining an upper middle in-come economy by 2030.