Central government interference is hampering Bulawayo road rehabilitation projects

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

Some Cowdray Park residents are taking to social media to warn others about potholes they’ve knocked down in the suburbs.

Some have suffered major damage to their car, such as flat tires or worse.

“It was raining and I noticed the pothole,” says Nkululeko Ndiweni, who was traveling to the Cowdray Park eMpompini area. “The next thing was a huge pothole impact, and the front tire blew out.”

Many other roads in the city are in poor condition due to years of neglect.

But there was a silver lining when the central government launched its Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Program (ERRP) in 2021.

The city fathers embraced the exercise but made no secret of their disappointment at the central government taking over the whole process, relegating the advice to spectators.

“Now you are waking up to a situation where the road network has been taken over by central government agencies and the funding for it is flowing directly to contractors bought in without input from the city,” says Solomon Mguni, Mayor of Bulawayo.

Currently, 65 main roads through Bulawayo are being rehabilitated under ERRP2 at an approximate cost of US$625 million.

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

Ahead of Independence Day celebrations, local council and central government through the Department of Transport and Infrastructure Development abandoned roadworks to focus on rehabilitating roads to Barbourfields Stadium , place of celebrations.

At least US$1 million has been earmarked for road works to ensure the presidency, government ministers and other bigwigs a safe journey to the site.

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

The report said a total of 13 roads in the city were left unguarded, leaving motorists in the mess of pothole-riddled roads.

As a result, the local authority decided to temporarily resume the rehabilitation process, the report adds.

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

“The average number of accidents per year between 2010 and 2017 was 36,105 and the average number of people who died from road accidents was 1,836. In 2016, the total number of accidents was 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 aims to reduce road accidents and fatalities by a 25% margin per year.

Latest BCC minutes show that Zinara allocated the local authority nearly $288 million for the road rehabilitation program this year. The council says it will spend $202,151,000 on rebuilding, relining and grouting and $86,636,243 on patching potholes and routine maintenance.

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

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

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development has also identified 10 main roads in the city to be rehabilitated. These are Indaba road, Catherine Berry Drive, Nkulumane drive, Glenvill drive, Lobengula Street, Chinamano road, Netherby, Woodville road and Cowdray Park -Hlalani Kuhle.

Source: Citizen newsletter

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