By Nompumelelo Sibanda
BULAWAYO City Council has been lauded for doing more to fix its road network with meagre resources, while Harare has been lambasted as being “wasteful” when it comes to spending.
Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana said of the funds given to local authorities by the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA), Harare gets three times what is allocated to Bulawayo, but the later city manages to keep its road in a decent state.
“I drive around Bulawayo a few times a year. Their roads are much better than Harare ones by a long mile. The strange thing is that ZINARA pays Harare City Council three times what it pays Bulawayo. It’s just that one is wasteful where the other is responsible,” Mangwana said.
In 2019, Harare had targeted to repair 1 130 kilometres, but only managed 28km.
In 2020, ZINARA allocated $52 million to Harare City Council for road rehabilitation, including the patching of potholes, but that did not help much as city’s roads have remained deteriorated in most areas, giving road users a nightmare. During the same year, the Bulawayo allocation was $16,4 million for road maintenance, according to documents seen by the Zimbabwe Voice.
While Government blames Harare City Council for the miserable state of roads, Harare blames ZINARA which it says has not been releasing funds, preferring instead to pay contractors.
ZINARA does not disburse road funds directly to the Harare City Council’s account, but council submits invoices for work done, so that ZINARA pays. directly to the contractor.
“They should raise a certificate as per request and then we do the payment. They raise an invoice and then we pay the contractor directly to avoid the abuse of public funds,” a ZINARA official said.
The situation has been worsened by the current incessant rains. Most roads in the city have outlived their lifespan of 20 years, while some were constructed during the colonial era.
Years of neglect have left them in a state of disrepair, putting a dent on council’s plans to achieve world-class city status by 2025.
However, while outsiders see Bulawayo as much better maintained, local residents have a different view. In December, the Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) expressed concern over the state of roads in Bulawayo which it said were littered with potholes.
The civic society group petitioned the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) demanding that it should fix the roads as the potholes had worsened due to the rains.
“ZINARA is collecting funds from cars through taxes every quarter and if that money is not returned to fix the roads, why should motorists continue paying? It will reach a point where motorists will refuse to pay because it seems by paying Zinara, they are actually funding the damage of their vehicles,” part of the petition read.
It said the most affected roads are Khami Road, Luveve Road, Joshua Nkomo Road and Plumtree Road to the city centre, while roads in high-density suburbs such as Pumula, Njube, Magwegwe, among others were in a sorry state.
In the low-density areas they said the worst roads were in Paddonhurst’s Netherby Road, Dillon Road in Parklands and Hillside suburbs.
Government this week declared a roads state of disaster for the entire country. Many remain sceptical that funds will be raised for roads rehabilitation, considering the strain that COVID-19 has imposed on Treasury. – Zimbabwe Voice 🔺