President Emmerson Mnangagwa has commissioned a consignment of 108 wagons, 7 locomotives and 8 passenger coaches for the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), marking a giant step towards the country’s revival of the railway system and the economy.
The rolling stock has been leased to the NRZ by a South African firm, Transnet and a group of Zimbabweans in the diaspora united under the banner Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG).
The NRZ had collapsed, owing to economic hardships that the country went through for close to two decades, but the coming of a new political dispensation last November has revived hopes that Zimbabwe can go back on its feet.
Since coming into office, the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has embarked on a massive re-engagement crusade under the mantra: ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business,’ and 89 days down the line, a massive goal has been scored.
“My first visit as President of Zimbabwe was to South Africa. That is where I met a group of Zimbabweans who assured me that they will come back and invest in Zimbabwe and they have done that…..the railway system is essential in the transportation of bulk goods such as minerals and we cannot say Zimbabwe is open for business when its railway system and road infrastructure is down,’ Cde Mnangagwa said while commissioning the equipment at the NRZ headquarters in Bulawayo today.
“My government is committed to the modernisation of the railway system and establishment of a new network in the region, so as to reduce transportation costs and ensure the economy benefits from economies of scale. This is the time to move bulk cargo away from the road as this damages our roads,” he added.
The NRZ has ordered 200 wagons, 34 passenger coaches and 10 locomotives and the consignment the equipment commissioned today is part of the interim measures to ensure the parastatal plays a part in the resuscitation of the national economy while waiting for the conclusion of the deal.
Cde Mnangagwa promised that the government will ensure that the welfare of NRZ workers, who have gone for years without salaries, is addressed and their working conditions improved.
The President also said the country’s road network needs attention, singling out the dualisation project of the Beitbridge-Chirundu highway, as the first priority.
He added that the resuscitation of big companies such as ZISCOSTEEL, Shabanie Mashava Mines (SMM) and David Whitehead are top on his agenda.
During the event, President Mnangagwa, Vice President Kembo Mohadi, government ministers and other dignitaries witnessed the signing ceremony of the deal between DIDG, Transnet and NRZ.
The commissioned equipment is the first batch of the consignment and the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Joram Gumbo said the remainder of the rolling stock will arrive in Zimbabwe by the end of April 2018.
Dr Gumbo also said the NRZ is a critical enabler to the economy, adding that the government must strive to establish a vibrant railway system.
He also acknowledged that the journey to resuscitate NRZ operations has been long and not easy, but said the new political dispensation will be equal to the task.