Putting Potholes Back In The Dictionary

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•00

Cast your mind back to late 1993, early 1994. Driving anywhere in Zambia left one distressed, exhausted and considerably poorer because of the depreciating value of your vehicle. Trips, short or long, were only made if absolutely necessary. So, has anything changed, have things improved? I would say yes.

The best example is the Lusaka roads. Most of the roads with high traffic volumes (a total of 166 km) have been resurfaced and adequate drains established to cope with the runoff during the wet season. Kitwe and Ndola are undergoing the same treatment, with the other provincial capitals to follow. The Great North Road between Kapiri Mposhi and Serenje has been rehabilitated, whilst on the section from Serenje to Nakonde work is in progress as is the Monze to Zimba road. Maintenance is being carried out on other main or trunk roads, such as the road from Nalusanga Gate to Kafue Hook Bridge and from Nyimba to Petauke, as well as work on the feeder roads in the rural areas.   The funding for these roadworks is coming from the World Bank and the Donors, under the Road Sector Investment Programme (Roadsip).

Apart from the big rehabilitation jobs, smaller routine maintenance work is also going on, and this is funded by the fuel levy that is included in the price of each litre of fuel that is purchased. Since 1995, in excess of K 84 billion has been paid out for this maintenance, and more contracts are in progress or being commissioned, including innumerable roads in the urban areas and also feeder roads.

Of course, we are a long way from perfection, but bearing in mind that in 1994, 80% of Zambia’s roads were not in a maintainable condition, the rate of progress is commendable. The potholed road that the fuel levy must travel from the Zambia National Oil Company, where it is collected, to the National Roads Board is one of the most urgent matters that needs to be addressed.

Just as important is the level of the fuel levy. In 1994, the total annual fuel levy was sufficient to maintain only 33% of Zambia’s roads (provided they were in a maintainable condition), and this gap seems to be growing bigger all the time.   I can see you throwing your hands up in the air and saying ‘Are you crazy?’. Let me put it into perspective. At the moment, included in the price of every litre of fuel you buy, K 84 goes towards the fuel levy. Now supposing you use K 100,000 every week on fuel and the fuel levy is doubled, you would be paying K 3,500 per week – the cost of two beers or one if you’re having it in a restaurant, but imagine what could be done to the roads with this. Think of the amount of work that has been done in the past year, double it and in a very short time we will have billiard tables to drive on.

Not only does the 1994  level need to be maintained, but other sources of revenue also need to be channelled to roads.   It is particularly important that we ensure that roads which have been rehabilitated or rebuilt are put onto proper maintenance programmes, so that the road’s lifespan is not shortened. Control of the quality of work being done on the roads also needs attention, so that every Kwacha spent is value for money.

Of course, good roads also have their downside. As soon as I see a smooth grey strip, at least 6 metres wide, in front of me, a piece of lead seems to slip into my right shoe and I feel my entire foot being pressed further and further down onto the accelerator.   As it is such a pleasure to drive on these roads, other motorists and myself are spending more time in our vehicles. This means more traffic, driving at faster speeds, on roads whose designs have not been significantly upgraded since the late 60s and early 70s. Add to this the increase in pedestrians and cyclists and the low level of road sense of most of the population, and we have a road safety disaster. Roadsip is looking at the problem of road safety and I hope to hear a lot more from the Road Safety Council in the coming months.

All in all, I think we are moving down the right road – funding for the maintenance of roads is forthcoming, albeit slowly, work is going on and the money is being accounted for (The National Roads Board’s financial statements are audited quarterly by independent auditors, and presented to Parliament annually after which they are published for the information of the public). We only need to ensure that we continue travelling down this road and we will soon be the envy of our neighbours.



Maintenance Programme 2000

Funded by the Fuel Levy

  • Zimba – Livingstone
  • Choma – Masuku
  • Batoka – Maamba
  • Lusaka – Mumbwa
  • Chipata – Lundazi
  • Luangwa Bridge – Nyimba – Mwami
  • Ndola – Mufulira – Mwambashi
  • Chingola – Solwezi
  • Chingola –  Kasumbalesa
  • Mpika – Kasama
  • Sabina – Mufulira
  • Pedicle road
  • Lunte – Zacharia

Maintenance Programme 2000

Funded by Donors


  • Livingstone – Sesheke
  • Chirundu – Kafue – Kabwe – Kapiri Mposhi
  • Mongu – Senanga
  • Kitwe – Kalulushi
  • Mutanda – Mwinilunga
  • Mbala – Mpulungu
  • Serenje – Nakonde

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