By A Correspondent- Bulawayo’s road network has collapsed following heavy rains that are being experienced in the city and elsewhere across the country and council needs approximately US$500 million to fix them.
Earlier this year, the local authority said 70 percent of its 2 389km road network needed urgent attention. Motorists in the city have bemoaned the dilapidated state of the road network which is damaging their vehicles.
They said the potholed roads are also to blame for some of the accidents being experienced across the city.
Most of the city’s major roads have become an eyesore due to potholes but the situation is worse for feeder roads leading to residential areas. While council has tried to renovate major roads, the feeder roads appear to have been neglected for years.
Rains that have been received recently have further damaged even the roads that were deemed to be in good shape.
So bad are the roads that some residents are joking that the potholes are part of the widely adopted Intwasa/Pfumvudza climate proof farming method under implementation to improve the country’s yields.
Memes abound depicting the deep potholes as the holes used for planting in the national programme.
Some motorists have resorted to avoiding some of the bad roads, such as Khami Road near Ingwebu Breweries. Mr Vuyo Phiri from Cowdray Park suburb said:
“The roads are so bad, it’s even worse for us with light vehicles. I lost my car’s shocks because of these roads. After it rains it gets worse because you won’t even know that you are going through a pothole until you hit it as it would be filled with water.
The sad situation is that we are now also recording accidents as a result of potholes. Mr Vuyo Phiri Last week, I saw someone being hit by a car which swerved off the road while the driver tried to avoid going through a pothole. The pedestrian lost his life along Luveve Road just after the flyover.”
Another motorist Ms Millicent Soko said driving has become more difficult especially as drivers have to constantly manoeuvre to avoid the potholes.
“It damages cars, the suspension, tyres and the like. One gets tired driving short distances as they will be constantly changing gears and swerving to avoid the potholes. You have to be always extra alert on the road just to avoid hitting a pothole. The problem is that we are not even seeing the council doing anything to patch some of the potholes. The old ones have become deeper while new ones have emerged,” said Ms Soko.
Miss Gugulethu Mpofu from Hillside suburb said the risk of being involved in an accident increases especially when driving through unfamiliar roads.
“For example, I used Khami Road, as I passed Turnall (Holdings), the road is so bad. I didn’t know it was now like that from the last time I used it. We are now in the festive season and a lot of people have come from diaspora. They might not know how the roads have deteriorated and this could cause accidents. I don’t know who should fix the roads between the Government and the city council but something needs to be urgently done,” said Miss Mpofu.
Another driver Mr Cephas Mutasa from Queens Park suburb said it is not just potholes that need fixing but also the city’s drainage system which is failing to absorb water whenever there is a downpour.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube admitted that the city’s road network had collapsed. He said on Sunday he went around the city assessing the state of the roads and what he saw worried him. Mr Dube however said there will be no quick-fix to the city’s road network problem as a lot of money is needed to address the issue.
“We are facing a disaster not just as Bulawayo but all other local authorities. Roads have totally collapsed. The reason being we have not been maintaining roads. We have been building new suburbs, constructing new roads but we have not renovated the old roads. We may need about half a billion in US dollars to fix our roads as Bulawayo. We might need investors to chip in so that we could rehabilitate our road network. We need capital injection so that we rehabilitate our roads,” said Mr Dube.
He said it was unfortunate that investors were not willing to spend their money even after the council comes up with brilliant ideas with most of them demanding sovereign guarantee, which is difficult to obtain.
Mr Dube said Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) was not disbursing enough money towards road maintenance while residents were also not paying bills. He said Zinara had promised to allocate ZW$81 million towards road maintenance to Bulawayo as part of the last disbursement for the year but last month only ZW$13 million was allocated.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said the poor state of the road network is a serious concern that needs all hands on the deck. She said residents can also assist in addressing the poor road network problem by paying their bills.
“I was checking the city council accounting books; residents are not paying their bills. We need residents to pay their bills for the council to effectively deliver on its mandate. We know that there are no jobs and money but we should also play our part. Our roads are in a bad state, it’s even worse for light vehicles. Last week, we were driving along Luveve Road, I observed three light vehicles that hit potholes and broke their ball joints, so we need to take this issue seriously. Sometimes when these parts break, it could result in accidents, so we need to take this issue seriously,” she said.
Zinara spokesperson Mr Tendai Mugabe said the roads agency has come up with a ZW$1,1 billion supplementary budget to be disbursed to road authorities so that they attend to roads during this rainy season.
“We set the road users charges and we collect the money and disburse it to road authorities who have the responsibility of maintaining our road network including Bulawayo City Council. It will not be proper for me to comment on the state of the roads. But what I can say is that as Zinara we have disbursed a supplementary budget of about ZW$1,1 billion to cushion road authorities during this rainy season to maintain our road infrastructure. But I want to make it clear that it’s not our responsibility to maintain that road infrastructure,” said Mr Mugabe.