Wide tarred road with a cycle track.

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Transport: Road transport network in Zimbabwe

  • Roads in Zimbabwe have been divided into groups, namely:<
    1. Wide-tarred roads which are two-way highways with a minimum width of 6 metres, and
    2. Other roads include here are narrow-tarred roads, strip roads and all-weather gravel roads which stand a chance of being tarred, funds permitting.
  • Roads in Zimbabwe are classified using the A-system.
  • A standing for the German word autobahn which has a number added to it to indicate the smoothness of the surface.
  • A1 is the best surfaced road in Zimbabwe followed by A2, A3, A4, or A5 and so on.
  • Regional Road Corridors are numbered R1, R2, R3 and so on. They may also be called by their original type and route name like A1, A2, A3 etc.
  • In some cases one type “R” road may comprise two or more type “A” routes; e.g. R2 comprises A5 and A7 (Harare-Plumtree Road).
  • Ordinary primary roads are numbered P1, P2, P3 etc. These are primary roads but not convenient for cross-border traffic and services.
  • In Britain, they use the M-system where M stand for Motorway while in the USA, they use the H-system for
  • There are more wide-tarred roads in the central, north-east and in the eastern part of the country.
  • These roads are fewer in the south, south-west, west, north-west and north of the country.
  • These are general descriptions.
  • Wide tarred roads are fewer than other roads and mostly wide tarred roads follow commercial farming areas while other roads link communal areas.
  • Wide tarred roads also link cities, towns and growth points.
  • The greatest concentration of wide tarred road is found around Harare with 8 such roads radiating from it.
  • Bulawayo has 4 wide-tarred roads stemming from it.
  • There are also many wide tarred roads around Zvishavane, Masvingo, Chivhu, Bindura and Gweru.
  • The wide tarred roads cross Zimbabwe’s boarders at 6 points.
  • These are Victoria Falls, Plumtree, Beitbridge, Mutare, Nyamapanda and Chirundu.
  • There are many wide-tarred roads in the central, north-east and eastern parts of the country because there is a lot economic activity in the form of commercial farms, mines, manufacturing industries as well as tourism.
  • Another reason is because there are more towns and cities as well as large populations which need to be linked by these roads.
  • Physically, the land is fairly flat here, making it easy to construct wide tarred roads.
  • In the other parts of the country, the wide-tarred roads are fewer because of low population densities, hot, dry environment and lack of vibrant economic activities.
  • Some of the land here are state lands used for parks and so do not need many wide-tarred roads.
  • The wide tarred roads are fewer than ‘other’ type of road because they are more expensive to construct.
  • Poor quality roads occur in communal areas because of political reasons.
  • The colonial governments wanted to bring better infrastructure only to commercial farming areas.
  • However since colonialism the government has built a number of wide-tarred roads through communal areas in-order to re-address this issue.
  • On a more local scale, the construction of road is strongly affected by physical relief features on the ground.
  • Roads can be built whenever possible even along watersheds.
  • This is done in order to prevent erosion of the road by rivers or flooding and washing away of bridges.
  • Another reason is to avoid the cost of building bridges to cross the rivers.
  • It also prevents waterlogging, development of corrugations and sinking of the road.
  • Examples of watershed roads abound in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe such as the road from Rusape to Nyanga via Juliasdale, the Juliasdale-Mutare road via Watsomba and Wengezi-Chimanimani road.
  • In hilly terrain, roads are built along valleys or gaps and passes in order to reduce the gradient scaled by vehicles in transit.
  • Spectacular winding roads have been built at Christmas Pass, Mutare and at the Boterekwa Pass (formerly known as Wolfshall Pass) just south of Shurugwi.
  • A smaller but equally spectacular gravel road has been constructed at Zibwi Pass south of Mnene Mission in Mberengwa.
  • At times, in the need to follow the shortest possible routes linking places, roads have to be built across large rivers with all the entailing costs of building imposing bridges.
  • An example is Birchenough Bridge where the Masvingo-Mutare road crosses the Save river, the Victoria Falls bridge, the Chirundu bridge and Beitbridge.
  • Where marshes and lakes occur, a road will avoid these, taking longer, winding routes around them.
  • If the ground is very uneven, it may be necessary to make embankments at depressions and cutting on higher ground or hill edges to let a road pass through.
  • Tunnels may even be cut through mountains to shorten a route.
  • Modern roads are very expensive to build.
  • At present, there is need for such road in Gokwe North, Mberengwa, Gwanda, Beitbridge, Tsholotsho, Lupane and Chiredzi districts with a large economic potential but with terrible road network.

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