By Norma Tsopo
MUTARE – Hoteliers have added their voice to calls for government to ban road transport importation of fuel as an increase in the number of haulage trucks have become a nuisance as they choke the smooth flow of traffic along the Harare-Mutare highway.
A recent mid-morning survey of the volume of trucks along a 92 kilometre stretch of the journey, between Mutare and Rusape, by maDzimbahwe Explorer showed 45 haulage trucks – an average of one in every two-kilometre stretch either heading to Harare or Mutare.
This adds to the perceived menace of traffic police whose aggressive enforcement of traffic laws is widely considered unfriendly and even bordering on extortion.
This is threatening to further isolate the eastern region as it is only currently accessible by road.
The lack of air access is a huge drawback to the marketing of the region as tourists need to invest in a lot of time to reach its many world class attractions which include Mt Inyangani, Vumba, Chimanimani mountains, Bridal Veil Falls, Mutarazi Falls, Hot Springs and Chirinda Forest among many others.
Eastern Highlands Experience representative William Chitagu said the region’s need for air connectivity was now even more urgent.
“Our need for an airport is becoming more and more urgent because haulage trucks are a menace along the Harare-Mutare highway. They will be in convoys of three to five and I think government should heed the calls to have fuel transported by pipeline,” Chitagu said.
Over 35 percent of fuels are being transported by road into the country from Mozambique despite the existence of a pipeline from Beira through Mutare to Harare.
Director of Industry and Commerce Constance Zhanje confirmed an increase in the number of freight trucks passing through Forbes Border Post.
“Of late the officials have been processing more freight trucks including transit than before,” Zhanje said.
The Ministry of Energy and Power Development has since 2014 been pushing for the use of pipeline for all fuel including transit fuel to save road infrastructure and curb smuggling.
The pipeline would pump fuel from the Mozambican port of Beira to Feruka oil refinery in Mutare before further transportation to Msasa in Harare. It has capacity to pump 180 million litres per month.
Fuel to neighbouring countries would then be picked up from local depots.
Road traffic users interviewed by this publication expressed safety concerns with hundreds of thousands of inflammable petroleum products on the busy highway daily.
“Government should do something before we have serious accidents. We have a pipeline which to the best of my knowledge is being underutilized. It’s not safe sharing the road with these fuel tankers,” Steven Masvovere said.
Latino Simbi a motorist said negotiating the trucks between the 263 kilometre journey from Harare to Mutare left her completely exhausted and it would certainly discourage tourist access to the region.
“Driving in a road with so much haulage trucks is exhausting and I think this will discourage tourists from accessing Manicaland unless either government bans transportation of fuel on the roads or approves the transformation of the military’s Grand Reef Airport to a commercial airport,” Gwenzi said.