HARARE – Work towards the rehabilitation of the country’s main border posts will now be handled exclusively by the ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, without the involvement of the ministry of Local Government and National Housing, headed by Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
The change in administrative functions marks yet another setback for the Mount Darwin North legislator who faces an uncertain future in both the ruling Zanu PF party and government, after his home province of Mashonaland Central led a surprise insurrection against him as the factional fights in President Robert Mugabe’s party spiral out of control.
The rebellion that points to grudges between Generation 40 (G40) and Team Lacoste factions found resonance with Kasukuwere’s foes in eight other provinces, forcing Mugabe to commission an investigation into his conduct, with 11 charges being preferred against the party’s national political commissar by his accusers.
A report has since been compiled by the probe team and was discussed at last week’s politburo meeting where G40 proponents sprung to his defence while the Team Lacoste faction went for the jugular. The meeting, however, ended without agreeing on the way forward.
Kasukuwere’s case is now scheduled for discussion at the next politburo meeting.
The Daily News can, however, exclusively report that a Cabinet decision was made on May 16, 2017 to apportion part of the multi-million dollar project that was under Kasukuwere’s ministry to the Transport ministry, led by Joram Gumbo, which will work with that of Finance and Economic Development, headed by Patrick Chinamasa, to implement the entire project.
Gumbo is linked to Team Lacoste, while Kasukuwere is associated with G40. Both deny having any factional leanings.
Gumbo has since written to the chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, to facilitate a handover-takeover from Kasukuwere’s ministry of all the necessary project documentation; “schedules of user requirements, designs, drawings and Bills of Quantities to enable my ministry to proceed as required”.
Gumbo confirmed the development last week although he could not be drawn into disclosing the reasons behind the Cabinet decision.
Zanu PF insiders allege it has all to do with the factional fighting within Mugabe’s government and party as well as the alleged fallout between Kasukuwere and his boss over allegations that he was setting up parallel structures with the objective of seizing power from the 93-year-old nationalist.
Zimbabwe shares about 15 border posts with its neighbours namely South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. The main ports of entry include Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, Forbes and Machipanda.
But there are also a number of other small borders shared, among them Kariba, Victoria Falls, Espungabera, Kazungula, Pandamatenga and Ramokgwebane.
Infrastructure at most of the border posts, principally those run by Zimbabwe, is in a state of disrepair and requires urgent rehabilitation.
On top of government’s priority list is the rehabilitation of the Beitbridge Border Post — the busiest port of entry in the southern region, handling as much as 500 trucks every day — to meet international standards.
Construction works at the post, which borders Zimbabwe and South Africa — the continent’s economic powerhouse — will touch on construction of a new bridge, rehabilitation of the weighbridge and upgrading of communication and security systems.
Work will also include upgrading of the road network to and from the bridge; gate control infrastructure; perimeter fencing of the post; parking areas, construction of a commercial centre and staff accommodation.
The border post will also be computerised and have lighting systems upgraded.
In terms of the work to be covered, the project was to be implemented by two ministries namely Transport (under Gumbo) and Kasukuwere’s ministry.
The latter, was principally involved in the construction of buildings at the border post since his ministry is the custodian of government buildings as well as having the overall authority for the running of municipalities, including that of Beitbridge.
Gumbo’s ministry is also undertaking the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu road through Geiger International, an Austrian company.
The Local Government ministry had received an offer from the Road and Rail Company (RRC) of South Africa proposing to rehabilitate Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu and Forbes at a cost of about $350 million.
The deal was still to be consummated.
In a letter to Sibanda, Gumbo does not seem to be keen on RRC as he is now hoping to engage Geiger.
Asked at what cost the whole project would be undertaken, Gumbo said they were still working on the figures.
He said: “We have not come up with any prices yet for the rehabilitation and we are still to find a suitable company. So far, two companies have expressed interest in the project. It’s too early to say who will take over the project since I was tasked to spearhead it recently and I quickly went out, previously it was being administered by the Local Government ministry.”
There have been concerns over the costing of the Beitbridge project, with many suspecting that its promoters were ripping off the taxpayer, who will eventually foot the bill.
Chinamasa had projected that the project would cost about $100 million.
RRC had proposed a build-operate-transfer arrangement, which would have entitled them to collect revenue for a period of 15 years.
RRC’s offer had divided Mugabe’s Cabinet along factional lines.
RRC’s offer, which is still on the table, proposes to develop state-of-the art border posts at Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, and Mutare as well as the bridge over Limpopo River linking Zimbabwe to South Africa and housing for government staff at the border posts, estimated at approximately $350 million.
It said the government shall remain throughout the term of the project, the owner of the border posts wherein its statutory functions will remain with the relevant arms of government.
RRC also proposes to develop “significant commercial infrastructure in the vicinity of the border post(s) to the tune of $200 million, which are envisaged to encompass, retail centres, special economic development zones and logistical centres/ free trade zones.
“The aforementioned initiative can commence immediately and will not require any direct or indirect funding commitments or guarantees from the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, its Treasury or the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. RRC can confirm that we commence the rollout of the project, primarily at the border posts, within 10 weeks following signature of the necessary preliminary project and funding agreements,” RRC said.
“We confirm that the recovery of capital and funding that will be provided for this initiative predicted solely on the user pay principle from revenue streams at the border posts facilities for a period of 15 years. There are therefore no requirements for Treasury to underwrite the exposure, nor for the Reserve Bank to provide foreign exchange for expansion or modernisation,” reads part of a letter signed by the company’s chairperson, Craig Lyons, and chief executive officer, Klaus Findt.
According to RRC, were it to encounter any challenges it would enlist the services of world class companies such as WBHO Construction “the largest construction company on this continent”, SB Group, and Broll Property Group “both of which are highly respected world-class operators with significant experience in border and facilities management. The Sheltan Group is our partner to provide railway sector services in Zimbabwe, if and when required.
“Details pertaining to the modalities and structures applicable to the financial models and funding mechanisms are structured in relation to the application of the user-pay principle to all users of the border posts.
“The key focus of the tariffs, however, will remain on large commercial vehicles rather than light private vehicles. Overall, it is clear that the facilities upgrades and modernisation will result in a significant cost saving to logistic companies.”