HARARE, July 15 — Group Five, the South African construction company contracted by the Zimbabwe government to rehabilitate and expand some of the country’s major highways, says it will have
completed the road works by mid-December.

The group is rehabilitating 828 kilometres of roads from Harare to Mutare, southeast of here, and Harare to Plumtree to the southwest.

The company’s project director, Ham Coetzee, told the Zimbabwean Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development here Monday that a total of 712 km had to date been completed.

“We are targeting to complete all road works by mid-December,” he said, adding that there had been delays in implementation of the project towards the end of last year due to late payment of funds by the Development Bank of South Africa.

He said the project, which included the construction of nine toll plazas, cost 200 million US dollars, with the plazas accounting for 27 million USD. “The toll plazas are fully solar-powered and are not connected to Zesa (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) power lines but they are a bit expensive,” he said.

“Within three years, the additional cost would balance with what it would have cost to have Zesa lines connected.”

Coetzee said about 150 km of the roads required total rehabilitation while 250 km would be widened with the remainder requiring being resurfaced and repaired. The roads the company were working on, he said, would have a lifespan of up to 10 years.

Coetzee said the South African company had tried its best to empower locals through employment creation as well as sub-contracting local companies to do the road works. The bulk of the material used for the construction was bought locally, except for 80 per cent of the bitumen used for road surfacing which was imported from South Africa as it was not readily available locally.

Group Five has employed 1,078 people on the project, with only nine being South Africans, Coetzee told the committee. He said the firm had since established an office in Zimbabwe as it sought to strengthen its relations with the government.

“We are here to partner with the government of Zimbabwe and not to make a quick buck,” he said when asked if the company was in the country to make quick money and leave.

Coetzee said the company was making a profit of between three to four per cent on the project.

Meanwhile, the MPs questioned why Group 5 had put in place many stopping points along the roads it was rehabilitating which inconvenienced travellers.

Coetzee said they could not construct detours as these would balloon the project costs.

The cold weather was also delaying progress as it was not ideal for resurfacing, for which minimum temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius are required.