The revival of the National Railways of Zimbabwe will help boost the country’s ailing economy through increased traffic, Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) has said.
DIDG, together with its South African partners, Transnet, this week emerged winners of the NRZ $400 million recapitalisation tender.
The group’s executive chairperson, Donovan Chimhandamba, told businessdaily that Zimbabwe has the potential to become an economic hub in southern Africa through the efficient use of its railway network.
“If we can modernise our rail, water, road and airports infrastructure, we can radically reduce the cost of doing business not only for Zimbabwe, but for the entire region,” he said in an interview.
“We are particularly interested in NRZ because if that rail system is working, the biggest market that requires such infrastructure includes the mining, agricultural and fuels industry in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Chimhandamba added.
NRZ, which at its peak employed about 20 000 workers and moved 18 million tonnes of freight annually, is currently struggling to pay more than 5 700 workers and refurbish locomotives due to lack of capital.
The State-owned firm needs at least $2 billion in the long-term to restore full viability and $400 million in the short-term to modernise its archaic locomotives and rail network system and infrastructure that is dilapidating due to years of neglect.
NRZ has 168 locomotives, of which 64 are serviceable and 7 255 wagons, 3 467 of which are operational, while the rest are in various stages of decay.
This has resulted in its carrying capacity falling from 9,5 million tonnes in early 2000 to 3,4 million tonnes in 2015, putting the government’s efforts to turn around the economy in jeopardy.
Chimhandamba said Zimbabweans living abroad must come together and invest in various sectors of the economy to ensure that the country keeps up with growth in regional economies.
“When you look at the regional infrastructure, it is absolutely clear that due to lack of investment into NRZ, Zimbabwe’s rail infrastructure has lagged significantly. This has led to numerous infrastructure projects being developed around the country to effectively by-pass Zimbabwe,” he said.
A recent report released by the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare portfolio committee noted that there was urgent need for government to find effective long-term solutions to reverse the downturn at NRZ.
“The government should assist NRZ in its recapitalisation drive by guaranteeing the loan implementation on recommendations of the auditor-general’s narrative report on State enterprises and parastatals of 2014.
“These include regular review of monthly bank reconciliation statements and evaluation of investment properties to guard against fraud,” read part of the report.
NRZ, the report added, should modernise its old equipment which created high maintenance costs that results in uncompetitive pricing and services as compared to road transport. Daily News