From Golden Sibanda in Bulawayo
GOVERNMENT will from now only sign multi-million dollar deals tied to specific timelines and subject to proof of funding to avoid costly delays to key projects similar to what happened with the Beitbridge-Harare road dualisation project, says Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired).
VP Chiwenga said this yesterday while fielding questions from the floor during the 12th edition of International Business Conference held as part of the ongoing 59th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which started on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.
This year’s business conference was held under the theme “Sustainable Industrial Development – Inclusive, Competitive, Collaborative”. The event was a sold out event with attendance growing from about 350 last year to over 800 exhibitors this year.
Foreign participation has grown from 14 exhibitors last year to 19 this year on the back of massive interest in the country and growing confidence following the ascendancy to power of President Mnangagwa after former President Mugabe’s 37 years heading the Government.
The VP said the Government will require clear time-frames on the implementation plans for key national programmes, as well as proof that the contractor has the requisite funding and only when Government is satisfied will it award projects or sign the deals.
This followed an inquiry by businessman and former Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Obert Sibanda, who wanted to know Government plans on avoiding further delays in the implementation of dualisation of key highways, particularly Harare-Beibridge, which has been on the cards since 2014.
In his response, the VP reiterated an earlier announcement by President Mnangagwa that the $984 million deal with an Austrian firm, Geiger for the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare Highway, had been cancelled after the company failed to meet terms of the contract.
“From now on, we will do ground breaking (when the contractor) gets on the ground and (implementation is) already in progress. Please, do not waste the President’s time.
“The President announced that the Beitbridge- Harare deal had been cancelled; we will not take chancers, but serious business people.
“We have made a requirement that if you want to do business with Government, you should give us timelines and show us how that company is going to do the work because the Government has no time for chancers,” he said.
This condition, VP Chiwenga said, will apply to all road dualisation projects that include Bulawayo-Plumtree, Bulawayo-Beitbridge, Harare-Chirundu and Bulawayo-Victoria Falls.
“We have to get a timeline; it has to be time-bound project,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said Government will not tolerate ceremonies for projects commissioned, but not implemented, stressing that such practice was costly and time wasting.
Briefing the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation (AFECC) during his recent State visit to China, the President said Government had become impatient with lack of construction activity along the country’s busiest highway that links Zimbabwe, South Africa and several other countries in the north.
“In the area of infrastructure development, we need bidders for the dualisation and widening of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway,” he said. “For two years, we have had problems with Geiger, so Cabinet has taken a decision to institute a legal process to terminate the deal as a result of non-performance.”
Geiger won the tender for the highway and commissioned the work in May 2016, but to date the road has remained untouched. At some point, the firm said its equipment had been confiscated by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, while it is also understood that in one instance Geiger could not raise adequate capital to fund the multi-million-dollar project. Geiger also once claimed the project had stalled because it could not get critical fiscal support measures such as legal provisions for national project status to be able key import key equipment duty free.