President Robert Mugabe has officially broken the ground to mark the commencement of construction work of the dualised Beitbridge – Harare highway.

The ground breaking ceremony was held this afternoon at Gonawapotera Secondary School near Chaka Business Centre in Chirumanzu, the Midlands Province along the Harare-Masvingo highway.

President Mugabe hails the project, which he says will be another springboard for economic development as it will have a multiplier effect on the country’s economy.

He called for high quality work that meets international standards, noting that the highway is the busiest in the country and links South Africa and other countries in the SADC region, East and Central Africa.

Cde Mugabe blamed illegal economic sanctions imposed on the country by Britain and her allies for stalling major infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe, adding that Zimbabweans still need to be resilient, united and soldier on against neo-colonialism if they are to be masters of their destiny.

He urged local companies to participate fully in the project and warned them as well as suppliers against overcharging so that they can be considered for future projects.

Speaking at the same event, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Joram Gumbo said the first part of the project which covers the Beitbridge-Harare highway will take three years to complete and is being financed under the public-private partnership agreement, while the second part covering Harare-Chirundu will be financed by a loan.

“The first part of the project [Beitbridge-Harare] will cost US$984 million,” said Minister Gumbo, adding that “negotiations for securing a loan for the second phase are at an advanced stage.”

Mr Eric Geiger, the Vice Chairman of Geiger International, the Austrian company which won the tender, said they are happy to undertake the project after six years of negotiations that were characterised by court cases at some stage.

He added that 40 percent of the work will be undertaken by Zimbabweans, a move that will give jobs to local companies.

Earlier, the Minister of State for Midlands Province, Cde Jason Machaya, who gave the welcoming remarks, saluted President Mugabe for the decision to dualise the Beitbridge-Harare road, saying it will save lives and create employment for the success of the ZIMASSET programme.