D-Day for Geiger over BB/Harare/Chirundu highway

An Austrian company that won the tender for the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway, Geiger International, has up to tomorrow to deliver proof of funds for the project, failure of which will see the tender being cancelled.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

Transport minister Jorum Gumbo told NewsDay that Geiger had so far failed to show cause why they should not be kicked out after failing to undertake construction of the country’s busiest road since the ground-breaking ceremony in May last year.

“They have up to Friday midnight to bring proof of funds, or else the contract is terminated. This project has taken long and as government we are disappointed,” Gumbo said.

Government notified Geiger International on March 13 of its intention to terminate the deal due to failure to implement the project and show proof of funds.

Geiger won the tender for the highway dualisation and commissioned the work in May 2016, but to date the road has remained untouched.

If the cancellation goes through, it would be a second one in a decade on the same road, while more roads-related deaths are set to be witnessed, as it becomes more dangerous for motorists to drive through, especially at night.

Initially, the tender was given to Zim Highways, a consortium of local firms before it was cancelled due to lack of funds.

Early this year, Geiger had stated that it was on the ground doing its surveys before starting work on the roads, but so far, nothing has materialised.

This has angered many Zimbabweans, who feel the project is being used for political mileage by Zanu PF, with no works at all to suggest government is sincere in its quest to improve the road network.

As things stand, the Geiger story could read the same as the ZimHighways deal, which took 12 years to settle while thousands perished on the roads.

A legal wrangle erupted between government and a consortium of local contractors, ZimHighways, which could not implement the project for over a decade due to a poor economic environment that culminated in a hyperinflationary crisis.

The government revoked the agreement in 2013 after persuading the consortium to withdraw their court case for an undisclosed settlement.

It claimed the consortium lacked the financial wherewithal to do the job, while the consortium claimed that some senior government officials were demanding bribes for them to facilitate the project.

Being a signatory to the Sadc protocol on transport, communication and meteorology, Zimbabwe is under pressure to not only rehabilitate its roads, but also modernise them.