By PAYTHIAS MUTALE –
ROAD traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in the country, according to the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA).
Thousands of people each year die as a result of road traffic crashes, of which more than half of these involve pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The Lusaka-Ndola Highway is the leader in accounting for these accidents.
Statistics from RTSA, for the year 2022, show that 67 per cent of road fatalities are registered along the Lusaka-Ndola highway.
“This is the reason in 2021, as an agency, we recommended to our sister company the Road Development Agency (RDA) that let the road be upgraded to a dual carriage way.” RTSA public relations manager Mukela Mangolwa recently said.
“This road records most of the accidents in the country. As you know, it is a single highway and in some places the road is very narrow and has a lot of waves in many places.”
Mr Mangolwa said the only cure to this problem would be to upgrade the road into a dual carriageway.
“We have the example in Ndola-Kitwe dual carriage way, accidents have drastically reduced compared to when it was a single highway, so the upgrade of the Lusaka-Ndola highway into a dual carriage way will be a dream come true to RTSA,” he said.
On concerns that once the road is upgraded to dual carriageway vehicles would be over-speeding, Mr Mangolwa assured that RTSA would install speed cameras to contain notorious drivers.
Lusaka-Ndola road passes through three provinces namely Lusaka, Central and the Copperbelt with several branches along its path into peasant settlements and commercial farms, especially in Central Province.
But this is the road which is in a deplorable condition and gives nightmares to road users both in recording accidents as well as slow movement of vehicles due to its dilapidation.
Mutafaza Munyarazi is a Zimbabwean truck driver and a regular user of this high way.
“I’m going to Congo. The only problem is this stretch from Lusaka to Kabwe. I spend four hours on this road just to reach Kabwe. There are a lot of vehicles on this road,” he complained.
Another motorist was full of complaints, saying, “I get paid per trip but I fail to make enough money because you cannot go to Ndola and come back the same day with this road in its current state so we are really suffering.”
Namembela kamusokwe, 67, is a resident of John Chinena, who has lost six family members on this stretch of the road.
“I have lost most of my relatives and children on this road, my two children died in a road traffic accident and I will never forget that day. It’s a dark day to me,” she said.
“This road needs expansion, it is too small. Why should we continue dying as if there is no government,” she complained.
Moreover, this is a highway that is of economic importance to the country as the road not only takes traffic to Zambia’s 10 provinces but also connects to neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Tanzania.
Road Development Agency (RDA) acting director of communications Anthony Mulowa said the road had reached its life span and what is required is the reconstruction of the road.
Mr Mulowa said this is the reason the government has signed the US$577 million concession agreement with Macro Oceans Investment Consortium Limited for the commencement of works to construct the 327-kilometre Ndola-Lusaka dual carriageway.
He said the concession agreement include the rehabilitation of the 45-kilometre Luanshya-Fisenge-Masagano road.
He stated that transportation like any other vital economic sector is indispensable to the strategic development process of a country and that was why this Lusaka-Ndola highway is being prioritised by the government.
“Lusaka-Ndola Road moves people and goods to different towns within and outside Zambia. It is one of the most important roads in the country in terms of imports and exports as well as an artery to administrative towns such those on the Copperbelt and Lusaka” he said.
He stressed that the reconstruction of the road will bring thousands of jobs to graduates.
“Look about 3, 000 jobs will be created during the construction period and about 5, 000 more will be created. Further we shall be constructing bridges, tollgates. All these are job opportunities,” he said.
“For your own information Lusaka is one of the fastest-growing cities in Southern Africa. It is the most important city in terms of trade and state administration, this is the reason it is over populated and we see a situation where people will shift to other areas like Chibombo because they will be able to commute once the road is done,” he noted.
Mr Mulowa went on to say that other benefits is the 20 per cent directed to local contractors who will also get a fair share of this deal, a move that has cheered the agency.
Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Minister Charles Milupi said the impact of the transportation system on the economic and social development process of Zambia is positively great as it encourages the growth of towns, hence grouped settlements and trade activities both within and outside the national jurisdiction.
He lamented that the only problem is that the government has no money as it manages the debt portfolio which was left by the last regime.
“The problem is that people do not know how much debt the country is in. This is the reason we are failing to fund infrastructure development, but we are managing,” he stated.
“So what we have done is that the Ndola-Lusaka road will be upgraded into a dual carriageway using the PPP [public-private partnership] model because of limited resources,” Mr Milupi said.
PPP is a partnership between the public sector and the private sector, forged for the purpose of delivering a project or a service traditionally provided by the public sector.
He reiterated that government will not spend any money on the project because the road that will have two more toll gates and upgrade of two weigh bridges is being fully funded by the concessionaire from construction to maintenance.
“The project is a paradigm shift of developing the country because the concession will run for twenty-five years of which three years of construction and twenty-two years of operations and maintenance of the road,” Mr Milupi explained.
He said the government will also have a share of revenue from the project as there is a sharing mechanism within the concession.
“The only problem is that the people who are criticizing us over the project do not mean well for the country. All they want is to fail,” he said.
Emmanuel Malembeka, a Kabwe resident, appreciated the government, saying he was proud of President Hakainde Hichilema’s leadership qualities of developing Zambia.
“The president is actually walking the talk because he talked about it during campaigns and he is fulfilling the promise,” Mr Malembeka stated.
Nayame Simfya of Chibombo praised the reconstruction of the road and she is waiting for the work to start.
“We shall be having a lot of business with motorists and we also want our children to have jobs, because they are just drinking beer here in Chibombo,” she said.
The construction of the Ndola-Lusaka road into a dual carriageway is a big milestone for not only the people of the Copperbelt but the country at large.-ZANIS