Zimbabwe is set to refurbish most of its major highways and local roads in an effort to reduce traffic accidents, Transport minister Joram Gumbo has said.
The country requires at least $2,2 billion to rehabilitate the national road network comprising approximately 17 000 kilometres of tarred roads and 71 000 kilometres of gravel roads.
Gumbo said Zimbabwe’s entire road network has outlived its 20-year life span hence the need for major refurbishments.
“We shall always continue to prioritise road safety as evidenced by the completion of the rehabilitation of the Plumtree-Harare-Nyamapanda highway. Unfortunately, this same highway recorded the highest number of fatalities last year due to speeding,” he told delegates attending the commemoration of the Global Road Safety Week in Harare recently.
Gumbo also indicated that the dualisation of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Road was “set to be rolled out in a couple of days’ time”.
This comes as the southern African country is experiencing increased traffic accidents due to a rise in motor vehicle population, poor road infrastructure and speeding.
Gumbo said although most of the accidents in Zimbabwe could be avoided, 27 percent of the 38 620 road crashes recorded last year were attributable to speeding.
“The problems of both excessive and inappropriate speed are prevalent on Zimbabwe’s roads. Excessive speed is when a vehicle exceeds the posted speed limit for a particular road. This is illegal.
“On the other hand, inappropriate speed is when a vehicle travels at a speed that is unsuitable for the prevailing road, weather, and traffic conditions but within the speed limit. This is unsafe,” he added.
Speeding has been identified internationally as one of the major causes of the road traffic injury problem. It is the highest contributing factor in the gravity of all road traffic crashes and results in the preventable loss of a life and a limb.
According to research on the causes of road traffic injury, speed contributes to around one-third of all fatal road traffic crashes in high-income countries and up to 50 percent in low-and middle-income countries.
In the United Kingdom, speed is reported to be responsible for 28 percent of all fatal road crashes. Meanwhile, infrastructure experts said while it was desirable for the government to refurbish the country’s road network systems, Zimbabwe’s present economic conditions cannot support a project of that magnitude running into billions of dollars.
“Public-private partnerships road sub-sector projects in Zimbabwe at the present time are inhibited by the low volume of traffic, even on the major highway like the Harare-Beitbridge Road, whose average traffic is around 1 000 vehicles per day, making the roads unviable on a self-financing basis, although they may be economically viable,” said an expert who preferred anonymity.
Funding for roads should normally come from the national fiscus, but because of the economic difficulties experienced by Zimbabwe and with limited funding from multilateral financial institutions and bilateral foreign donors, funding for capital projects has been very limited in the past two decades. Daily News