By Mkhululi Ncube
Driving along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road, the country’s gateway to the Mighty Victoria Falls is now a nightmare for drivers as parts of the road are littered with potholes as a result of heavy rains that have been experienced across the country.
Some trucks carrying heavy loads like coal, copper and heavy machinery destined for other Sadc countries have been stuck in the mud as they tried to avoid potholes.
A Chronicle crew on Tuesday witnessed a number of trucks stuck on the side of the road while an equal number lost control and were in the bush.
So bad is the state of the road in some areas that drivers are either driving at the centre of the road or the wrong lane as they try to avoid potholes.
When it is raining, the potholes are filled with water, making the potholes invisible thereby becoming a trap causing breakdowns.
While the news crew witnessed the poor state of the road up to Lupane, motorists say the potholes are all over the road till one reaches the country’s premier tourist destination, Victoria Falls.
A motorist, Miss Kwanele Lutshaba said she almost had a head-on collision with a heavy truck which was trying to avoid a pothole after Hwange.
“I was driving in my lane and suddenly I saw a truck coming into my lane. It was dark and the driver had not dipped his lights. I just froze waiting for the worst to happen but the truck driver somehow went back to his lane. The whole road is terrible, its only few kilometres that are not affected,” she said.
She said some of the worst parts are between Jotsholo and Gwayi and after Insuza coming to Bulawayo with some parts uneven because of heavy patching that was done years back.
The road which is also frequented by livestock has huge trees near the road which pose more danger to motorists if they lose control of their vehicles.
A truck driver who was stuck before he reached Lupane said driving on the road has been a nightmare.
“During the other times of the year we mostly have problems with livestock and wild animals but the rains have affected the actual condition of the road. As you can see, I am stuck here. I was trying to avoid a pothole. I could not move to the other lane as there was oncoming traffic so when I pulled off one side of the truck of the vehicle I got stuck. I was stuck in the morning, I am still waiting for a rescue,” said Mr Israel Mwemba who was transporting heavy machinery to Zambia.
He said authorities must look at widening the road so that movement of traffic is not affected.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Richard Moyo said he has advised the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to address the pothole issue.
“I was talking to the provincial roads engineer to attend to the road. It is un-trafficable because of the potholes. Even the Bulawayo-Nkayi road and other roads in the province have been seriously affected by the rains. People are sending me pictures of the poor state of the road,” he said.
Cde Moyo said the department must come up with temporary plans to address the challenges until the end of the rainy season when they will be able to work on a permanent solution.
Matabeleland North Provincial roads Engineer Steven Kamutema the heavy rains have affected their routine maintenance of the roads.
“We have had abnormal rains which has resulted in the current state of the road. We do not repair when it is raining but our maintenance teams are on stand by for the rains to clear then we start. Otherwise, when everything is normal, we do not stop attending to the roads,” he said.
The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe acting director of operations Mr Ernest Muchena urged drivers to be very vigilant when driving on the highway.
“The country is receiving a lot of rainfall and most of the roads on our highway are being adversely affected by the amount of rain. The potholes are developing on a daily basis and sections of the road that are in a better state can be found in a worse state the next day. Drivers must exercise extreme caution as they travel on the roads, especially when they come to those bad sections that are infested by potholes,” he said.
Mr Muchena said drivers should also adjust to the condition of the road by reducing speed.
“If you travel at a high speed in areas with potholes your tyres will develop lumps which can lead to a tire blow out resulting in a fatal road collision. It is advisable for drivers to remain to their side of the road and take necessary precaution rather than going into the part of the oncoming traffic which can lead to a collision,” he said.
Mr Muchena said trucks carrying heavy loads must be especially cautious.
“Because you are carrying a load that has been placed in a container or on your vehicle you must make sure that you don’t shift the gradient of the load to the extent of the vehicle tilting and overturning. You must remain on a flat level surface,” he said.
He said some accidents being recorded by the council are as a result of heavy vehicles using soft shoulders of the road which result in getting stuck or the load tilting and the vehicle overturning.
Mr Muchena said those who transport animals and liquids must also heed the advice as any mishaps can result in hazardous subsistence spilling on the roads which can ignite the vehicle.
“Drivers must exercise extreme caution and be patient until they are past a bad portion of the road. It is also an offence to driver on the wrong side of the road no matter what you are avoiding,” he said.
Mr Muchena appealed to road authorities to take care of roads under their custody and fill the potholes before they grow bigger so that conditions of the roads do not lead to accidents.
Last year, the Transport Ministry commissioned a 2km stretch in Gwayi, Hwange District and closed a detour that had been opened. The Chronicle