Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


Harare-Chirundu highway now a death trap as Zim roads collapse

Besides the Harare-Chirundu road, Zimbabwe’s local travel, trade and economic situation is worsened by the terrible state of the Beitbridge-Bulawayo highway. The road is badly damaged, especially between Mazunga and Makhado areas, which lie within the 60 kilometre and 120 kilometre stretch from Beitbridge to Bulawayo.



. . . Beitbridge-Byo-Vic Falls artery derelict

RONALD Kabeta looks exasperated and glum with anxiety and despair written all over his face as he engages The NewsHawks correspondent on the state of the Harare-Chirundu highway — a daily nightmare for him as a commuter omnibus driver plying the Karoi-Harare route.


The frustration, visibly painted on his worried faced, is fuelled by the horrendous hassles of navigating the dilapidated road and associated potholes that have now become a death trap for travellers.

“Of late, many travellers have been forced to park and sleep along the highway, especially when travelling during the night, after hitting dangerous potholes that are now a permanent feature along the way. The road is now dilapidated due to potholes and old lifespan,” says Kabeta.

The collapse of the road has brought so many problems for travellers: Their car tyres and other parts of the vehicles get damaged, increasing the cost of maintenance, slowing down movement and business, while also fuelling fatalities through increased accidents.

Kabeta is often hired by different people to buy groceries for clients from Harare to Karoi. But he fears for his life. Travelling on the road is now like dicing with death.

He is always living on the edge daily. But he has no choice; he has to survive. At whatever cost. Giving up is not an option, yet the risk to his life always looms large.

“The road is now badly dilapidated; it is now a death trap,” Kabeta says.

“It’s difficult to navigate. It’s really dangerous.”

A day hardly passes without an accident along the way. “With the current rains which have filled the potholes and eroded the road, some cars have been left on roadsides due to tyre punctures, malfunctioning engines affected by water and damages by the road dilapidation,” he added.

Chamu Gomo, a Karoi resident, said driving on the road, especially during the night, is now a nightmare.

‘‘It is no longer advisable to overtake during the night along that highway as you may plunge into a pothole filled with water. The road has collapsed, causing disasters and we wonder if government has plans to quickly fix this road urgently as senior officials use it when they visit Kariba resort town for meetings or holidays,” Gomo said.

“When driving at night, never try to overtake because cars in front of you will be blinding you from seeing the potholes. Speeding is dangerous on a potholed road like the Harare-Chirundu highway.”

The Harare-Chirundu highway is not just a road, it is an economic route for travellers and movement of goods from South Africa across Zimbabwe to Zambia, and further into the regional interior. It is part of the Trans-African Highway network linking the southern part of Africa with Central Africa.

It connects South Africa and Zimbabwe to Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, among other countries. Over the years, it has played a crucial role in facilitating trade and travel in the Sadc region and beyond.

The road has been on government rehabilitation programme for years, but has become treacherous and a drag on the economy.

Zimbabwe’s road network, except the Plumtree, Bulawayo, Harare to Mutare artery and now the Harare-Beitbridge highway, is in a shambolic state of dilapidation. Roads across the country, including towns and cities, are in bad shape.

Harare, the capital city, for instance, is a messy sight due to potholes, worsened by poor service delivery and garbage. Resultant road crashes, blamed mainly on a combination of human error, poor road infrastructure and defective vehicles, are taking a heavy toll on lives and the economy in terms of maintenance of vehicles, healthcare costs and deaths.

This affects the economy in various ways. Loss of lives is by far the biggest problem. Zimbabwe’s road crash fatality rate increased from 1 836 in 2016 to an average of 2 000 deaths per year — over five deaths per day — from 2017 to 2019, according to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ).

The situation is getting worse. TSCZ official statistics show an increase in road traffic crash fatalities of 35% between 2010 (1 291 fatalities) and 2019 (2 000 fatalities). Five people die every day on the roads in Zimbabwe and this translates to 153 persons killed per month.

Estimates by TSCZ research in 2018 showed that the country loses about US$406 million annually from an average 40 000 road traffic accidents every year, and this is estimated to be almost 3% of the gross domestic product of about US$14 billion at the time, now US$25 billion.

While good roads do not necessarily reduce accidents — in fact sometimes they increase them — dilapidated roads are invariably bad. Although TSCZ has no official disaggregated data, a World Health Organisation (WHO) country profile from 2018 provides useful indicators.

According to the WHO, drivers and passengers of the bus category account for 50% of the total fatalities recorded in 2017, followed by pedestrians at 16%.

Drivers and passengers of four-wheeled cars and light vehicles contribute 13%, drivers of four-wheeled cars and light vehicles 8%, riders of two or three-wheeled motorised cycles 6%, pedal cyclists 4%, and drivers/passengers of heavy trucks 3%.

The high numbers of bus-related fatalities show a need in this category, consisting of the poorest most vulnerable population. The annual crash death rate is expected to triple in the next 10 years in the absence of concerted action and significantly increased commitment by all stakeholders to address this national crisis and key development concern.

“With the second United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 under[1]way, Zimbabwe has the opportunity to head in the right direction to achieve the goal of halving road traffic crash fatalities and injuries by 2030. With increased political and financial commitments from all stakeholders, the country can turn this situation around, guided by the recommendations of this review,” the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, said at the time.

 Worldwide, 1.3 million people are killed every year in road crashes and over 50 million are injured, with Africa recording the highest fatality rates per million inhabitants.

Besides the Harare-Chirundu road, Zimbabwe’s local travel, trade and economic situation is worsened by the terrible state of the Beitbridge-Bulawayo highway. The road is badly damaged, especially between Mazunga and Makhado areas, which lie within the 60 kilometre and 120 kilometre stretch from Beitbridge to Bulawayo.

The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway is also in a state of collapse, prompting travellers, motorists and haulage truck drivers to make noise about it of late.

The NewsHawks journalist Brezh Malaba, who recently travelled from Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s leading tourist destination, witnessed huge potholes and stretches of virtual collapse of the road starting from the Insuza areas towards Lupane.

From the Insuza area going towards Hwange, Lupane, Gwayi and Victoria Falls, the highway looks like a road in a war zone in some parts.

Malaba wrote: “I have just returned from a trip to Matabeleland North. It was an emotional rollercoaster. On one hand, one’s soul is rejuvenated by the remarkable hospitality of local communities, the splendour of Mother Nature and rich cultural heritage of a diverse region.

“On the other, one comes face-to-face with the never-ending economic struggles of a province that has been dealt a raw deal by successive colonial and post-colonial governments . . . Why is government neglecting this strategic highway?”

Analysts say the poor state of the Zimbabwean road network is a reflection of the country’s economic mismanagement and bad governance over extended periods of time during Zanu PF’s protracted 43-year rule.

 Malaba’s Twitter conversation attracted various responses on the bad state of Zimbabwe’s road network.

“The Beitbridge-Bulawayo highway is a gateway to the biggest tourist destination, Victoria Falls, Hwange and Binga areas. It needs to be fixed urgently to save human lives and facilitate tourism travel and growth,” one traveller, Zamani, wrote.

Another participant said: “We drove to Tsholotsho and Umguza from Bulawayo re[1]cently. I was surprised to see police roadblocks on that impassable road. There is no road to talk about.”

 The rundown Harare-Chirundu road has played a crucial role in tourism as it links the capital Harare and other parts of the country to the Zambezi Valley. It is the gateway to major tourist attractions such as Kariba and Mana Pools in the far northern part of Zimbabwe.

The tourist attraction includes the south bank and islands of the Zambezi River, which form the border with Zambia. Its park is known for wildlife visibility beside the river and in the flood plains. Large populations of elephants, hippos and Nile crocodiles gather at sunrise in the Long Pool. In the park’s south, lions wait for prey around the waterhole at Chitake Spring.

 Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume. There is also Bumi Hills Safari Lodge resort situated on the hilly ground overlooking the southern shore of Lake Kariba. An area with such economic activities needs to be serviced with good roads. Yet the state of the roads has become a daily frightening experience for Kabeta and many travellers, motorists and haulage trucks, particularly those who use the Harare-Chirundu highway every day.

 Edmore Maranga, a Kariba resident, said some high-profile businesspeople and property owners have reduced their trips because of poor roads. Kariba Tourism and Business Indaba administrator Cephas Shonhiwa said the government should urgently rehabilitate the Harare-Chirundu highway.

He said the bad road was negatively affecting the economy.

“The Harare-Chirundu highway is now a big issue as it has been neglected for far too long. With the continued rains and potholes, our clients are badly affected. A poor road network is one of our challenges as a sector. We are appealing to the government to act on repairing the potholes along the highway as we don’t have any scheduled flight from Harare to Kariba for business travellers,” Shonhiwa said.

“Without scheduled flights to both Kariba and Chirundu, the only mode of travel is by road which is in extremely bad shape. The tourism sector is suffering from cancellation of bookings due to the road that is not easily accessible. This has a huge negative impact on economic growth in the sector.”

Wildlife parks in the Zambezi Valley have not been spared the poor road network as clients are no longer visiting. Last week, an access bridge to Mana Camp in Mana Pools, one of Zimbabwe’s world-class resort areas, was swept away by the incessant rains.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo confirmed the incident, saying it will affect tourists who had booked to visit the area.

“I can confirm that one of the access bridges to Nyamepi/Mana administrative camp has been washed away by floods, making the bridge impassable by motor vehicles. It will affect our visitors who enjoy the nature of the area,” Farawo said in a telephone interview.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Kurai Macheza said dilapidated highways need urgent rehabilitation.

“Indeed, the Harare-Chirundu highway needs to be worked on as a matter of urgency. With the road rehabilitation drive, we believe this highway will be the next to be attended to. A few stretches have been redone, but more work is required as this is the gateway for trade into the north,” he said in a written response. Development economist Prosper Chitambara said the collapse of the road network has negative economic effects for Zimbabwe and the region.

‘‘The poor (Harare-Chirundu) road network adversely affects trade within the region. For Zimbabwe it means that the country will lose out economically as some long-distance trucks using the same route will be forced to divert from regular routes and take alternative avenues that can be longer and more expensive,” Chitambara said.

“The delays of road rehabilitation will result in the increasing costs of trade in the region further affecting regional integration and development.” Due to Zimbabwe’s poor roads and other problems, haulage trucks are not using the Kazungula Bridge road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Botswana on the north-south corridor.

As a result, government declared all roads to be a state of “national disaster” on 9 February 2021. Shortly after, a second Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP II) was launched.

The objectives of ERRP II are to improve the road network, which gets extensively damaged during rainy seasons, and to harness the potential of the transport system in promoting economic growth. ERRP II was due to run from March-December 2021.

 It was focused on repairing some 26 000 km of the road network and reconstructing drains before the next rainy season.

The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration, part of the ministry of Transport, has taken over 500km of roads from the country’s urban councils, including 32 roads totalling 250km in Harare, 38 roads totalling 84km in Masvingo, eight roads totalling 12km in Mashonaland central and nine roads totalling 25km in Manicaland.

Margaret Marewo, a research assistant at the Development Governance Institute and a member of the Inclusive Urban Infrastructure team, has said it is critical to have a holistic and integrated approach to rehabilitation of the road network because “road infrastructure development is a key enabler of economic growth”.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *