Government banking on local contractors on mega projects

By Tafara Chikumira

GOVERNMENT has assured builders and contractors operating in the country that relevant institutions will continue to craft measures that will protect the industry from closing shop.

It emerged during the Zimbabwe Building Contractors’ Association Dinner held in Gweru on Saturday, that most local contractors who were awarded mega government projects like the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation exercise are having nightmares in accessing payments in local currency in a situation that is threatening viability of their businesses.

“I am one of the contractors who has been afforded the to develop my country. I want to applaud the government for such an initiative to ensure that we get the much needed empowerment. My major worry is that the money I was supposed to have been paid for the work I did in January is now a 3rd of the initial amount if we are to judge by the official rate. How then am I supposed to cover for the losses?” asked a contractor.

“We have heard from rumours, I say rumours because we have not received official communication that government has committed to paying half of our services in US Dollars and the other half in Zimbabwean Dollars. After further enquiries we are told this is only for big firms. How are we then supposed to survive as young contractors if this is the case?” queried another contractor.

“I am speaking on behalf of women contractors. We were told that we can’t be considered for some of the projects if we do not meet certain conditions. We are expected to have certain type of machinery and proof that we have worked somewhere else. Where will we get such when we are just entering the field? We need your help,” noted a female representative.

The Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Honourable Mike Madiro however allayed the contractors’ fears saying treasury is ceased with their concerns in a view to find a win-win situation as the Second Republic continues to come up with policies that empower locals.

“To those who raised issues of bottlenecks in getting tenders due to capacity, my advice is that we form consortiums. On delayed payments, the reality is that we ended the year with over ZWLthree billion debt to contractors, but we have since managed to offset over ZWLtwo billion which means we are prepared to play our part.

“Be that as it may, Government has vowed not to open the programme to any foreign contractors and is sticking to its guns. This is aimed at ensuring maximum benefit to local contractors as government thrives to enhance local contractor capacity and contribution to the realisation of the goals of NDS1 towards Vision 2030,” he said.

The Second Republic has put the infrastructure revival programme at the fore of the country’s development trajectory with dams and roads  being constructed while existing airports and border posts are receiving major facelifts with a view to attract meaningful investment in the country.