Tsvangirai unveils US$1b road project

Harare – The Zimbabwean government said Monday it had secured private investors to dualise the country's main highway, running from the South African border in the south to the Zambian border in the north, at a cost of US$1 billion.\r\n

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the 1,000-kilometre road, the busiest in the country, would be developed by different private investors on a build, operate and transfer basis in 200-kilometre portions.

"The dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu highway is set to commence anytime soon as government has already identified a number of investors to kickstart the project," he said.

Calls for the dualisation of the road have grown louder in recent months after a series of deadly accidents, including one in March which claimed the life of Tsvangirai’s wife and left him slightly injured.

It links most southern African countries to South Africa, the region’s economic hub, and mainly serves as a trade route.

"Investors will roll out the project so that at least we can be able to cope with the increased traffic volumes and also reduce carnage on the highway," Tsvangirai said.

Years of under-investment have left most Zimbabwean roads in a bad state.

Zimbabwe government said it would introduce toll fees f or the use of its major highways from this to raise money to improve the country’s dilapidated road network.

Makeshift tollgates have been put up on all the country’s highways, and they are levying motorists from.

The government said the money would be ploughed back into the country’s highways, which year s of under-investment have largely turned into death traps.

Increasing road accidents, including a bus crash this week which killed 40 passengers, have been partly blamed on the poor state of the country’s roads.

Under the toll fee programme, funds raised would be used to upgrade the highways , in some cases dualising them.

Transport Minister Nicholas Goche said investors had been lined up to undertake the project on a build, operate and transfer basis.

All vehicles, including foreign registered ones, will be required to pay the toll fees which vary from US$1 to US$5.

Only government vehicles and those belonging to social services such as ambulanc es and fire brigades would be exempted from paying