Central Government Interference Hampers Bulawayo Road Rehabilitation Projects

A city council report says most roads are now impassable, littered with potholes, leading to a decline in road safety and high vehicle operating costs.

Some residents in Cowdray Park are taking to social media to warn others of potholes they have run over in the suburb.

Some have experienced major damage to their cars, like flat tires or worse.

“It was raining and I did notice the pothole,” says Nkululeko Ndiweni who was on his way to Cowdray Park eMpompini area. “Next thing was a huge impact from the pothole, and the front tire went flat.”

Many other roads in the city are in bad shape owing to years of neglect.

But there was a ray of hope when the central government launched its phased Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP) in 2021.

City fathers embraced the exercise but did not hide disappointment with the central government taking over the whole process, relegating the council to by-standers.

“Now you wake up to a situation where the road network has been taken over by central government agencies and funding thereof, is disbursed direct to contractors procured without city input,” says Solomon Mguni, Bulawayo Mayor.

Currently, 65 major roads across Bulawayo are being rehabilitated under the ERRP2 at an approximate cost of $625 million.

About 75% of the city’s road network has outlived its lifespan, and turned into death traps, according to the Bulawayo City Council (BCC).

Ahead of the Independence Day celebrations, the local council and the central government through the Transport and Infrastructural Development Ministry abandoned road works to focus on the rehabilitation of roads leading to Barbourfields stadium, the venue of the celebrations.

At least US$1million was earmarked for the road works to ensure the Presidency, government ministers and other bigwigs have a smooth ride to the venue.

A latest internal report from the engineering department dated February 1 reveals that some companies contracted for the ERRP abandoned their projects under unclear circumstances.

The report indicates that a total of 13 city roads have been left unattended leaving motorists at the mess of the pot-holed riddled roads.

As a result, the local authority resolved to temporarily take over the rehabilitation process, the report adds.

The central government says the poor condition of the country’s road network has had direct and indirect impacts on the road transport safety.

“The average number of accidents per year between 2010 and 2017 was 36,105 and the average number of people dying as a result of road accidents was 1,836. In 2016, the total number of accidents were 38,620 increasing to 42,430 in 2017. Similarly, the number of fatal accidents also increased from 507 in 2016 to 1,358 in 2017,” the government says.

The NDS1 targets to reduce road accidents and fatalities by 25% margin per annum.

Latest BCC minutes show that Zinara allocated the local authority nearly $288 million for the road rehabilitation programme this year. Council says it will spend $202 151 000 on reconstruction, overlays and reseals and $86 636 243 on pothole patching and routine maintenance.

Some of the roads to be rehabilitated using the Zinara funds include Fairbridge Way (Philips to Cecil Drive), Huggins Road (Luveve Road to Police) Woodville Park, Luveve 5 Road, Maduma Dr (Intemba to S J Ngwenya Shops) and Murchison Road where the council will conduct overlays and reconstruction.

The BCC says the central government allocated $442 million for road rehabilitation under the devolution funds and the council intends to rehabilitate at least eight roads using the money.

The ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has also identified 10 major roads in the city for rehabilitation. They are Indaba road, Catherine Berry Drive, Nkulumane drive, Glenvill drive, Lobengula Street, Chinamano road, Netherby, Woodville road and Cowdray Park -Hlalani Kuhle.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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