Zim upstages Botswana in multi-billion pula border business

Khato Civils' heavy equipment
Khato Civils' heavy equipment

Botswana appears to have been caught sleeping by its more hungrier, innovative  and ambitious neighbour, Zimbabwe, which has fast-tracked plans to muscle out the country  (Botswana)  from its long stranglehold on the multi-billion Pula trans-boundary Kazungula-Martins drift economy.

With a little help from a South African firm, Khato Civils,  Zimbabwe is investing in  a 760km dual carriage way from Victoria Falls to Beitbridge, through Bulawayo, a move that  will see the distance covered  reduced by 90km, while the convenience of the dual carriage way would also add to the new speedy route by Zimbabwe.

To put it into perspective, today’s preferred trade route, Martins Drift-Kazungula, is 850km long, thinner, and uncomfortably patchy, while  Beitbridge-Victoria Falls, is 760km and would be much wider, much faster, and much more fun for a traveller once  completed.

The icing on the cake is that the P20 billion project is literally manna from heaven for Zimbabwean government, which is not parting with a cent in the project but stands to reap dividends as soon as funds raised through toll gates and taxes start pouring in.

Zimbabwe have simply been smarter as they took the public private partnership concept to another level to ensure that in their pursuit of the significant share of the north- south corridor trade, they do not part with a cent.

Instead it will be the contractors, Khato Civils, South Zambezi and their partners who will ensure that the new road pays for its debts while raking in more millions for Zimbabwe's government throughout the 35 years term of the contract.

According to Khato Civils CEO, Mongezi Mnyani it is now international practice that key roads such as the one being pursued by Zimbabwe are left to the private sector to develop, operate and maintain, while governments concentrate on more immediate issues like health and education.

Mnyani, said in South Africa, similar infrastructure such as the N1, N17, and others, were developed, operated and maintained by the private sector.

"In Botswana, for instance, the A1 road can be developed, operated and maintained under the same model and save the government of Botswana money, while creating a  new source of revenue, and lessening incidents of road accidents," the Khato Civils CEO shared.

He said he was looking forward to the completion of the trade route that has the potential to significantly aid the Zimbabwea economy as  the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo-Beitbridge route, transforms within the next three years into a state-of-the-art dual carriage way replete with  amenities  such as hospitals, air ambulances, lodges and other trendy features that would make the route any traveller's choice between South Africa and out  into the rest of Africa in the north.

It is expected that the more expanded highway envisaged by Zimbabwe would double  the traffic volume on the highway, thereby increasing  returns for  the Zimbabwe economy, while extras such as toll gates, are also expected to increase the economic spinoffs along the new highway, which  would cost P20 billion to complete.

The new Zimbabwe’s rival to Botswana’s Kazungula-Martins Drift  mega trade route  is also going to be designed to be pothole-free, at least throughout  its first 35 years, as a maintenance contract has been  included as part of the turnkey project that would see ambitious South African firms, Khato Civils and South Zambezi joint venture deliver the project hailed as a game-changer for Zimbabwe.

That Zimbabwe had been salivating at the billions of Pula raked by Botswana from  the  Kazungula-Martins Drift corridor  over the years is no secret.

In 2010, for instance,  an attempt by South Africa to  try and help the ailing Zimbabwe economy by re-directing transporters to bypass the Martins Drift border post in favour of Zimbabwe’s Beitbridge, was uncovered and caused  a tiff between Botswana and South Africa which had issued the memo to transporters to divert their business to the Zimbabwe side.

With unrivalled state-of-the-art dual carriage way, replete with world class amenities along the high way, this time the transporters might not need any memo from South African authorities  to  divert into the new route in the form and shape projected.

The Zimbabwean tender for the 760km stretch of road from Beitbridge-Bulawayo to Vic Falls, was awarded in February, 2019, having been floated in October 2018, when 13 local and international companies showing interest.

According to Mnyani, the Khato Civils/South Zambezi Joint Venture has already been appointed to source funding and execute the feasibility study for the 760km trade route.

Mnyani says they are currently in the process of sourcing the funding, preliminary engineering designs and financing modalities and options for the construction works and maintenance and operations modalities for the project. 

 The Khato Civils CEO says they are making strides in sourcing the funds and have already held meetings with various funders. 

The 760km works of road and bridges is also expected to have immediate spin-offs for  the Zimbabwean economy with 30% of the  works ear-marked for Zimbabwean contractors.

 Mnyani says Khato Civils  will also have international expertise for the 760km project. “We have other partners who are bringing the necessary skills and capacity required for the project; together with our partners we will execute the project from design, construction,  operation,  and maintenance”. 

While the new Zimbabwe dream project may be a pain in the flesh of its  neighbour,  the Victoria Falls Beitbridge trade route is demonstrative of   Zimbabwe’s determination to  revive its  fortunes. 

For Simbi Phiri owned Khato Civils and South Zambezi joint ventures,  the pan-African project constitutes the single largest  project on the continent todate , and the most lucrative  for the company at P20 billion(USD 2 bn), only second to their lake Malawi water  project, awarded for P5 billion(USD 500 million), also as a turn key project.The Malawi water project  which has already consumed over P700 million of its budget is going at a snail's pace as that country's government is yet to make up its mind on the choice of funding partners brought on board bbthe contractor. 

Khato Civils and South Zambezi, along with Evolution Engineers, were also recently awarded a 100km water project in Botswana for the design and construction of 100 km long transmission pipeline and associated works from Masana wellfield to Mmamashia water treatment plant.It is worth around  P780 million Pula.

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