Photo: The Herald
President Mugabe has declared floods that have ravaged southern parts of the country a state of disaster.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo yesterday said this comes in the wake of thousands of people who have been left homeless by floods countrywide.
“The floods have been declared a state of disaster by the President,” he said. “A full statement will be issued tomorrow (today).”
This comes amid confirmation that most critical areas of roads damaged by the incessant rains will be rehabilitated within the next 30 days following the setting up of a special Cabinet committee that has since raised $14,5 million out of the required $100 million to cover all the areas.
Dr Gumbo said all roads rendered impassible will have been attended to in the next two months, depending on weather conditions.
“Throughout the country, the roads have been washed away,” he said.
“It’s difficult. We are looking at programmes that I have stated which are in three categories that maybe in the first 30 days if the weather allows, then we can attend to some of those places that are very urgent so that people can start moving and do their daily engagements.
“We also believe that maybe in about 60 days we will have covered most parts of the country that are impassible. We hope within six months, as we want to try and catch up with time, that when harvesting comes there should not be a problem of moving the crops. We are working around the clock that we work and address this situation.”
The Cabinet committee, chaired by Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, has a mandate to mobilise financial and human resources after Government declared the country’s roads a national disaster.
The committee would be meeting weekly and includes other ministries such as Local Government and National Housing, and Transport and Infrastructural Development.
Government departments like the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara), District Development Fund (DDF), the Office of the President and Cabinet and Rural District Councils are also part of the committee.
To speed up the resource mobilisation process, Zinara has been tasked to apply for a $50 million loan facility for the road maintenance.
Regarding the rehabilitation modalities that Government was going to use, Minister Gumbo said: “The national road repair work will be done and funded in three categories as emergency works, preventative works and reconstruction or rehabilitation works.
“Road authorities have commenced on the first phase of urgent and emergency works and will continue until all emergencies have been addressed.”
Minister Gumbo said in southern parts of the country, most bridges were swept away, rendering roads impassible.
Some of the affected bridges as listed by Minister Gumbo were Nkankezi Bridge along Zvishavane-Mbalabala Road (Matabeleland South), Jeka Bridge along Danga-Dolo Road (Midlands), Nuanetsi Bridge along Mberengewa-West Nicholson Road (Midlands) and Binga-Bumi Road (Mashonaland West).
In some cases, Minister Gumbo said, people were using makeshift ladders to cross rivers after bridges were washed away.
Said Minister Gumbo: “The southern parts of the country have been hit by Cyclone Dineo which has damaged a number of structures to date. Zimbabwe has received above normal rains in this current season 2016-2017 and as a result, the state of our roads has further deteriorated to the extent that some sections of the national road network have become impassible.”
On road maintenance in towns, Minister Gumbo said Government was intervening following an outcry from local authorities that Zinara funds were not enough to maintain the roads.
Although Minister Gumbo said Zinara toll collections were not enough for road maintenance, recent reports showed that the road administrator was losing significant revenue through leakages.
For instance, Group Five, a South African firm contracted to upgrade the 800-kilometre Plumtree-Mutare Highway in a $206 million deal, reportedly swindled Government of close to $50 million.
It was alleged that the firm coerced Zinara to pay the money as Value Added Tax.
Zinara chief executive Engineer Nancy Masiyiwa Chamisa has since written to Group Five demanding the reversal of the tax transaction, which she said was not done above board.
Observers note that the $50 million lost to Group Five could have gone a long way in the rehabilitation of the damaged roads, and there would have been no need for the committee to direct Zinara to borrow $50 million for roads rehabilitation.
In one of her audit reports, Comptroller and Auditor-General Mrs Mildred Chiri, pointed out that Zinara was failing to account for how it was using toll fees.
In the 2014 report, Mrs Chiri said Zinara was unable to give full information on the financial position and performance of the fund, making it difficult to determine how the money was being utilised.