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Govt fails to pay Harare urban road contractors US$200m



CONSTRUCTION companies working on some of Harare’s critical inner roads linking the New Parliament Building in Mount Hampden and the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway project – the trade and commercial gateway to the north from the south – have not been paid for their current works.


They are owed a total of over US$200 million for different construction jobs which will cover 255 kilometres.

The government pays contractors in local currency and United States dollars. It is supposed to have paid part of the total cost to allow them to do their work and meet timelines, but it has not yet done so.

Failure by the government to pay on time has left construction firms struggling without adequate working capital to finance day-to-day operations and pay for expenses of the projects. The companies are already behind schedule as time flies.

Informed industry sources told The NewsHawks that the five contractors involved in the inner Harare road networks rehabilitation project linking to the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway – Bitumen World, Fossil Contractors, Exodus Company, Masimba Construction and Tensor Systems – have not been paid.

The five companies involved in the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway project, initially estimated to cost US$2.7 billion, are collectively rehabilitating  the whole stretch, spanning 935km.

The government says it is almost done with the 580-kilometre Beitbridge-Harare section and has now embarked on the 355km stretch which will cost US$550 million. Authorities now say the Beitbridge-Harare road will cost US$1 billion. There has not been a consistent costing of the project.

It was split into sections.

One contractor told The NewsHawks: “All companies which are involved in the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu project are also working on sections within the Harare City precincts and the linkages. But then the problem is that we haven’t been paid for current works. So we are struggling to pay for supplies of materials and other costs.

“We have to pay engineers. Laying out a road project requires finding an area with the right infrastructure in place to support the weight of heavy equipment.

“The cost of building a road depends on the materials used. For example, asphalt is a softer material that takes longer to level and requires greater maintenance.

“And the cost of building a road also depends on the distance. There are also labour costs which vary depending on the location and the number of workers. We also have to pick up the tab of equipment such as dump trucks, bulldozers, and earthmovers.

“There are many things involved. There are costs of design and planning. The cost of designing and planning a road project can vary depending on the complexity of the project and the number of professionals required.”

Contractors say they are struggling without working capital which is essential to build such projects. Working capital is the money needed to finance the day-to-day operations and expenses of a project.

Another construction company senior executive said: “Without being paid, how do we pay our own contractors, labour and suppliers, costs, equipment and material purchases, overheads and administrative expense? There are also unexpected expenses and contingencies.

“Having sufficient working capital ensures that payments are made on time, avoiding delays and penalties where applicable. Materials and equipment are purchased when needed, labour costs are covered, unexpected expenses are absorbed and projects stay on schedule, within budget and timelines.

“The amount of working capital required for a road project depends on many things like size and complexity of the project.

“For instance, the Mbudzi Roundabout project is more complex than standard roads; duration of the project, number of suppliers, labour costs and equipment expenses and contingency funds for unexpected expenses. It is important to carefully plan and manage working capital to ensure the successful completion of a road project. There is also the issue of fuel, which is urgent.”

These projects are important for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, particularly due to the upcoming Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit in August in Harare and authorities’ need to impress visiting leaders.

Here are some of the Harare road construction plans: At least 40 greater roads in and around the city have been lined up for massive construction and maintenance ahead of the 2024 Sadc summit scheduled to be held in Harare in August;
The Sadc preparatory mission engaged the government technical team in terms of preparations for hosting the 44th summit in August;

Zimbabwe shall be hosting the 44th Sadc Heads of State and Government summit in August this year.

Cabinet also resolved to prioritise the rehabilitation and maintenance of Harare’s road network in preparation for the Sadc summit.

The resolutions include:

Declaration of state of disaster: Cabinet declared the state of Harare’s roads a state of disaster, enabling the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to expedite the rehabilitation process;

Emergency road rehabilitation: It approved the emergency rehabilitation of 40 selected roads in Harare, focusing on high-traffic areas and major routes;

Prioritisation of urban roads: The ministry of Transport was directed to prioritise the urban section of the Harare-Chirundu Road project, ensuring completion by 31 July 2024;

Additional funding: Cabinet approved additional funding for the road rehabilitation programme, ensuring adequate resources for the project’s completion;

Inter-ministerial committee: An Inter-ministerial committee was established to oversee the road rehabilitation programme, ensuring coordination and expediting the process;
Private sector involvement: Authorities encouraged private sector participation in the road rehabilitation program through public-private partnerships;

Community engagement: The ministry was directed to engage with local communities and stakeholders to ensure minimal disruptions and maximum cooperation during the rehabilitation process.

While Mnangagwa wants the roads renovated urgently, his government has not yet paid amid fears that if contractors are given billions in local currency, they will go to offload that into the parallel market and destabilise the new monetary unit, ZiG, while stoking inflation.

As a result, officials say the government through the Transport ministry will apply asphaltic concrete overlay on critical roads including Samora Machel (Jaggers to Kuwadzana roundabout), Dieppe roundabout – Glenara/Samora Junction – Glenara/ED Mnangagwa Road, Dieppe roundabout–Chiremba (through Braeside), Robert Mugabe/Rotten Row – Josiah Tongogara, Harare Drive Roundabout Jaggers – Lomagundi Road (selected sections), 4th Street (Simon Muzenda Street)/Robert Mugabe Junction to Tongogara Road, 4th Street (Simon Muzenda Street)/Robert Mugabe Junction to Tongogara Roads.

Sadc summit road construction works include the urban section of the Harare-Chirundu Road project from Julius Nyerere Way to Westgate traffic circle (Sam Nujoma Street and Lomagundi Road), which is being rehabilitated, widened, and dualised.

That section is being done by Fossil which will take the project all the way to Banket on the Harare-Chirundu road.

Since the Sadc summit will be held at the new Parliament, the road to the National Assembly is being renovated by Bitumen. The company is also rehabilitating the road from Parliament to Mazowe Road.

Exodus is working on the Mazowe Road up to Mvurwi turn off. The company is already doing the Harare-Kanyemba Road. It is also involved in the Harare-Chirundu road, just like it was on the Beitbridge-Harare road.

Masimba and Tensor are also doing other relevant sections in the capital road networks linked to the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway.

The rehabilitation works include street lighting and landscaping. Fossil asked to prioritise the works for completion on or before 31 July 2024.

The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway covers the Beitbridge-Harare road which will cover 580km and eight toll plazas; Harare–Chirundu covering 355km and six toll plazas; and the Harare ring road comprising 59km with three toll plazas.

Thus far, more than 400km of the 580km of the Harare-Beitbridge road have been constructed and 435km is now open to traffic.

With the Beitbridge-Harare highway almost complete, the five contractors have now moved to the city’s inner roads which link with the Harare-Chirundu road and the Harare-Kanyemba project.

However, contractors are complaining that they have not been paid, constraining their operations.

Transport minister Felix Mhona said the government was working well with contractors.

“We’re working well with all contractors, but if there are some who are disgruntled, I will be glad to know and hear their concerns.”

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