The Zimbabwe government and two firms awarded the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway widening tender have signed a framework agreement for the implementation of the project.

Austrian firm Geiger International and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) Limited were awarded the tender to expand the road to a dual-carriageway highway.

Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joram Gumbo said at the agreement signing here Monday that the agreement allowed the partners to negotiate and sign specific agreements relating to the Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for the Beitbridge-Harare segment of the highway, and the loan facility for the remainder of the project.

"Discussions carried out between the two parties at different levels have culminated in the production of this framework document which will describe the summary of the scope of works, funding models, implementation and level of local participation," he said at the signing ceremony.

"The agreement basically acknowledges the two formats to be adopted in funding this project."

Gumbo said the road would be constructed through a combination of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) and Loan Financing models.

"The section from Beitbridge to Harare shall be implemented as BOT with a concession period of 20 years while the section from Harare to Chirundu, including the Harare Ring Road, will be implemented as a combination of loan and private sector investment contributed by CHEC."

Gumbo said work had already started to draw up the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contracts and financial contracts for the project. "It is my fervent hope that the parties will maintain the momentum in implementing this rehabilitation project," he said.

Gumbo said contrary to media reports, the actual project cost was yet to be ascertained.

The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway is Zimbabwe's busiest and is the gateway to neighboring countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Work on the highway was stalled by court processes in 2013 after the initial winner of the tender, Zimhighways, took the government to court for breach of contract. The court case was, however, withdrawn leading to the submission of fresh bids for the mega project.