By Lovemore Zigara
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Dr Joram Gumbo says it might take up to 18 months to conclude the $400 million deal for the recapitalisation of National Railways of Zimbabwe.
A consortium of Zimbabweans in the diaspora partnered Transnet of South Africa as part of NRZ recapitalisation efforts but Dr Gumbo said there were issues still to be ironed out before the deal can be concluded.
“It takes about 18 months before work commences on the ground because the investors have to be cleared from their country and also meet statutory requirements.
“However, this is not to say nothing is happening on the ground and as we speak they (investors) are busy negotiating on the loan and how it will be serviced among other things,” said Dr Gumbo.
“There are many things that have to happen which must be fulfilled before people start working on the project and that is what is happening,” he said.
NRZ recapitalisation programme has been granted National Project Status and seeks to increase the national rail carrier traffic volumes and profitability.
The capacity of NRZ has been severely undermined by the obsolete and broken down infrastructure, resulting in service levels declining from handling 18 million tonnes per annum in 1998 to just two million tonnes now.
The national rail carrier has 168 locomotives, but only 64 are serviceable while 3 467 out of 7 255 wagons are in operation. At its peak NRZ used to employ about 20 000 workers.
The national railway company has also suffered considerably from the collapse of the local industry and economy in general, which has meant little or no bulk freight to transport within or outside of Zimbabwe.
Government is working on achieving an efficient and reliable transport system which facilitates production, trade and access to markets. In the absence of reliable and efficient rail system, the country now relies on expensive road transport.
Treasury has since prioritised implementation of transport infrastructure projects, embracing the road network, rail and air; focusing on completion of on-going projects. The Chronicle