THE ongoing rehabilitation of 65 major roads in Bulawayo under the Government-funded Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme 2 (ERRP2) is set to transform the face of the city and attract investment.
The ERRP2, which was launched by President Mnangagwa in response to the damaged road network throughout the country, has transformed key roads in both urban and rural areas.
An equivalent of US$400 million has been set aside for the national project earmarked to run for three years.
Government has since mandated the Department of Roads to take over 500km of roads under urban councils.
According to the timelines set for this year, 840km of roads across the country will be rehabilitated and reconstructed, while 8 340km will be re-gravelled with 17 093km of road set to be regraded.
Government will reseal 1 290km of roads, reconstruct 427 drainage structures and work on 24 830km of erosion works and drains across the country.
Under the Infrastructure, Utilities and Digital Economy cluster, Zimbabwe's economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) prioritises completion of road rehabilitation projects.
NDS 1 notes that "a road can become an economy" and in this regard, focus will be on development of feeder roads into communities as a way of developing underdeveloped remote areas. Infrastructure development and rehabilitation, a key pillar in the economy in terms of the NDS1, is receiving increased attention under the Second Republic, with several key projects being implemented across the country.
Government declared the road network a state of national disaster in February and subsequently launched the ERRP2 in April under a budget of $33,6 billion. Over 10 000km of roads will be rehabilitated under the programme.
In Bulawayo, different companies have been contracted to rehabilitate the roads following the disbursement of $625 million by Government for road maintenance under that phase.
The programme is expected to improve Bulawayo's road network with Bulawayo City Council (BCC) saying 75 percent of its roads stretching 2 400km have outlived their life span.
Most of the city's pothole-ridden roads had become death traps. Through ERRP2, the roads are slowly shaping up into their former glory, a development that has ignited excitement among motorists.
The rehabilitation of roads in Bulawayo is being implemented by BCC and the Department of Roads in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development.
Some of the roads have already been resurfaced. Major roads such as Siyephambili Drive have become a marvel to drive on following their rehabilitation.
Roads that are being rehabilitated by the Department of Roads through overlaying, repatching, resealing and pothole filling include, Njube Main Road, Old Khami Road, 12th Avenue extension, Nketa Drive, Matopos Road and Luveve Road.
BCC is working on Doncaster Road (industrial), George Avenue, Fife Street, 4th Avenue, 8th Avenue, Jacaranda Avenue, Circular Drive, Nkulumane Drive and the Cowdray Park corridor stretching from the railway line to the suburb's service station.
According to the Department of Roads, at least 125,5KM has been rehabilitated so far by 11 contractors who have been engaged. A total of 18KM has been resealed against a target of 36KM around the city.
Under the programme, the BCC has target to do 151,9KM. Seven roads are earmarked for overlay which is 10,2KM and so far, 2, 3KM have been done, translating to 22,5 percent completion.
In terms of resealing, 10 roads covering 20,4 km have been targeted by BCC with 0, 5KM having been done, translating to 2,5 percent.
In terms of potholes, 53 roads covering 117,7 km have been identified, while 78, 5km has been done. So far, $110 million of the ERRP fund has been used.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday moved around the city and observed several contracted companies working on various roads across the city.
Bitumen World has set up a temporary construction base at the corner of George Avenue and the Bulawayo-Harare Highway.
The company has resurfaced part of George Avenue and the work will stretch up to Leopold Takawira Avenue in the city centre. Asphalt Civils has started rehabilitating 8th Avenue while potholes have been patched along Old Khami, Hyde Park and Luveve roads.
Some contractors have also started putting carriageways markings in some of the major roads across the city.
Bulawayo residents and motorists have commended Government for releasing funds for the rehabilitation of roads.
Ms Sithini Moyo from Emakhandeni said it is now a joy to drive on Siyephambili Drive.
"We are grateful for the road rehabilitation projects that we are observing. I stay in Emakhandeni suburb and use Siyephambili Drive almost daily and I am quite impressed with this new development," she said.
"We hope more of the roads would be repaired. However, we are also appealing to authorities to speed up the process to avoid inconveniencing motorists."
Pastor Shadreck Mberengwa said it was gratifying to note that Government under the Second Republic has resolved to address the long-standing issue of dilapidated roads.
"It might seem as if this is a little thing but as you can see, I have been watching these men work for a few minutes.
It's not usual to see several roads being rehabilitated at the same time," he said.
Association for Business in Zimbabwe (ABUZ) chief executive officer Mr Victor Nyoni said road rehabilitation works are commendable as they stimulate economic growth and production.
"The rehabilitation of the road network has been long overdue. As a business we have been pushing Government and the city council to attend to potholes among other damages to our roads in Bulawayo," he said.
Speaking on Tuesday after a tour of the roads in Bulawayo, District Development Fund permanent secretary, Mr Christopher Shumba said they were worried that ERRP funds in Bulawayo Province are not being fully utilised, with only $110 million used so far, out of the $625 million allocated.
"The ERRP has released more than $600 million, to Bulawayo City Council which they should utilise to fix the roads within the city and they are working on the roads. We are worried that the rate of the consumption of the money released is very low. To date they have utilised close to $110 million and they need to draw down that money from Zinara," said Mr Shumba.
"They (BCC) are convinced that they will utilise it all, but there is just a month between now and the end of December for them to utilise all the over $600 million."
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