Once the heartbeat of the Bulawayo industry and one of the major players in the national and regional economy, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), has been choking over the years.
The major shareholder, government, is seized with the challenges amid consensus that if addressed fully, the firm will be a huge economic boost.
The story of NRZ is that of a giant who traded with many others.
Most industries who were engineering powerhouses in Bulawayo either supplied or got supplies from the NRZ.
The company’s influence went beyond Zimbabwe into the region through its experience in wagons, locomotive and other key engineering manufacturing initiatives.
New board chairman Advocate Martin Dinha said while there is a $400 million recapitalisation package on the cards, the parastatal needs over $1 billion for a thorough recapitalisation as there has been none since 1980, hence the continued deterioration.
However, all is not lost says Advocate who toured the NRZ main workshops in Bulawayo where amazing engineering works are still ongoing despite the challenges the parastatals is facing.
“It is a sad state of affairs here. We need to sit down and ask ourselves if we have done enough to recapitalise NRZ. We can’t fully enumerate all the challenges it is facing but we can make this a national priority project for attention,” he said.
NRZ acting chief engineer – traction and rolling stock, Professor Daniso Simon Mlambo said one of its major challenges is re-tooling.
“We have obsolete equipment. We want to re-tool but at the moment it is not easy. We have the skill, the experience and all but we do not have the capital and modern equipment,” he said.
Even in those challenges, the engineering workshops in Bulawayo continue churning out new locomotives and other critical components in the rail sector. One only imagines what would happen if there was adequate capitalisation.