ZIMBABWE’S road network is in a shambles, amid revelations that 90% of the thoroughfares have surpassed their design life.
A report by the parliamentary committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development shows the government has a serious road rehabilitation backlog.
This is despite claims by the government that it has revolutionarised the country’s road network over the past five years.
A report presented in Parliament by Knowledge Kaitano, chairperson of the committee, shows that plans to revamp the road network are going to be further blighted by the meagre funding allocated to the parent ministry in the 2024 National Budget.
“This report analyses vote allocations made to the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development. The Vision of the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development is to become a regional hub for world-class transport networks, logistics, and services by the year 2030,” it reads.
“The mission is to develop integrated transport infrastructure networks and services that facilitate smooth, safe and secure movement of goods, services and persons. However, more than 90% of the country’s road networks have surpassed their design life. The aged road networks require funding for rehabilitation and reconstruction.”
The report has also revealed that efforts to maintain roads have been hampered by a cocktail of problems that include: inadequate funding for capital projects and operating expenditure, low levels of support from development partners and late disbursements of funds by the Treasury.
The committee said infrastructure development plans have also been hampered by late payment of contractors, which have been projected to derail the country’s vision to become a major transportation hub.
According to the report, Treasury’s ZW$1 153 233 000 000 (US$199 176 683) allocation to the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development is paltry and is unlikely to meet the infrastructure deficit facing the country.
“The share of the allocation of the budget to the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development was about 1.9% of the total national budget. This allocation is too low, given the current infrastructure deficit in the county and that transport is a key enabler of the economy.
“The Treasury allocated the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development a total of about ZW$1.1 trillion (excluding employment costs) against an ideal budget of ZW$7.89 trillion. This is only 14% of what the ministry requires.”
According to the report, while there was a 697.7% increase in the 2024 allocation from that of 2023, the difference was due to high levels of inflation.
“The major increase in the budget in percentage terms is on policy and administration (1202.6%), followed by services (974.9%), road infrastructure and transportation (627.8%) and inland waters infrastructure and transportation (376.7%).
“There has also been an astronomical increase in selected expenses such as the Use of Goods and Services (3521.5%) and Compensation of Employees (1066.8%). Despite the massive infrastructure requirements in the country, road infrastructure and transportation and inland waters infrastructure and transportation registered a lower percentage increase compared to policy and administration and services.”
The government has been taking a lackluster stance in attending to the country’s roads over the past years, which are likely to affect the country’s aspirations to become a regional hub for world-class transport networks, logistics, and services.
Earlier this year, main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change MP Prosper Mutseyami demanded answers on the government’s failure to rehabilitate the Mutare-Mozambique highway, 20 years after the legislature raised concern over the poor state of roads which is hampering regional trade.
“We have a serious problem with regard to a national road which links Mozambique, Zimbabwe via Mutare. This national road has a high flow of traffic, especially heavy trucks. It is a busy road and these trucks link Zimbabwe, Zambia, DRC and in other cases, they link Botswana,” said Mutseyami.
“The problem we have is that it was put to the attention of the minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development some time in 1995. It is the Herbert Chitepo Road; part of the road links Mutare and part of the Green Market. There is a bridge there and that bridge links the flyover and the bridge at Green Market.”
Mutseyami added: “The Honourable Minister knows this story because it is on the record of the minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development. There was a plan at national level for that bridge to be expanded and to expand as well the flyover — but up to now nothing has been done and, all of a sudden, it is becoming more of a national crisis because it is affecting the countries that I have mentioned in terms of movement of transport and in terms of time management.”