The government’s efforts to recapitalise the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) have intensified with the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Joram Gumbo embarking on a tour of all the country’s rail operation sites to get first hand information on the state of affairs ahead of cabinet’s finalisation of the $400 million recapitalisation deal.
Dr Gumbo took time out of office to tour various NRZ operation stations in Harare to get first hand information on how best government can recapitalise and revamp the state enterprise, which has been run down owing to a number of challenges, chief among them vandalism and years of disrepair.
During the visit, Dr Gumbo admitted that the NRZ has been run down, but was quick to reveal that the $400 million investment deal between NRZ and Transnet & DIDG has been polished up with the revamping of country’s railways expected to commence soon.
The minister blasted the NRZ management for sleeping on duty after witnessing Harare’s rail yards in a state of dilapidation.
He said the central train control system was reported to have developed challenges in 1997 before the management reverted to the primitive paper order and radio signals which have seen the NRZ failing to operate passenger trains.
The minister’s itinerary will take him to Kwekwe, Gweru and Dabuka stations tomorrow before visiting Bulawayo and Mutare on Thursday and Friday respectively.
The NRZ is a key driver of the economy and its revival was long overdue.
Lack of a reliable rail network is costing the NRZ millions in potential revenue with industry highlighting prices of bulky goods are more expensive due to reliance on road.
At its peak in 1998, NRZ used to transport goods in excess of 18 million tonnes per year but volumes haves fallen drastically to 5 million tonnes per annum owing to operational inefficiencies.
Hwange constituted one of the railway’s major customers with coal being ferried from the Colliery to ZISCO Steel and other customers.
Hwange Managing Director, Mr Thomas Nakore noted that product pricing could be cut 20 percent if rail usage increases.
A report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development noted that NRZ could have raised $2.1 billionfrom transportation of 30 tonnes of raw chrome exports following the lifting of an export ban by the government last year.
An industrialist, Mr Nathaniel Madzivanyika believes that apart from the movement of minerals by the NRZ, low rail activity has also prejudiced the economy of jobs as the state enterprise employed 18000 workers at peak.
NRZ continues to pay road levy on its fuel for locomotives which do not use roads against the SADC endorsed principle of exemption, thus making its fuel more costly.
All this points to the fact that the resuscitation of the railway system in Zimbabwe should not just be rhetoric but a set plan of action that yields desired results.