By Auxilia Katongomara
Legislators have called on National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) general manager Engineer Lewis Mukwada to step down from the Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR) board, as he is conflicted.
BBR, which operates the private railway line between Beitbridge and Bulawayo, is NRZ’s competitor. Presenting the first report on the turnaround strategy for the NRZ in Parliament recently, the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development said there was a clear conflict of interest in Eng Mukwada’s roles.
“Engineer Mukwada, who is now substantive general manager of NRZ, should immediately cease sitting on the BBR board, a competitor in the rail industry, as this is bound to compromise his service delivery at NRZ, and (it) is also a poor corporate practice,” read the recommendations.
Eng Mukwada was appointed substantive general manager last year after his stint as acting GM since 2013 following the death of Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai (Retired) in August 2013. NRZ workers say they doubted whether the company’s senior managers were serving the parastatal with integrity.
“We don’t know whether these managers serve NRZ with dignity given that they sit on the board of a competitor at the same time they are expected to give strategic advice to NRZ,” said the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers’ Union (Zarwu) president Mr Kamurai Moyo.
The workers said the private railway line between Beitbridge and Bulawayo operated by BBR should be their cash cow as it had high volumes of business. BBR is 85 percent-owned by a South African integrated logistics service provider Grindrod Limited.
Grindrod holds a controlling stake in Mauritius registered conglomerate, NLPL, which now owns BBR.
The committee chaired by Cde Dexter Nduna said it had noted with dismay that NRZ’s strategic plan was premised on recapitalisation by Government. “Given the well documented fiscal constraints that we are currently faced with, this appears highly unlikely in the immediate future,” he said.
“This business as usual approach will not achieve the desired results of reviving the once thriving NRZ.”
The committee recommended that Government must take over or, at the very least, guarantee the debt owed to employees if NRZ is to attract a serious private investor.
They recommended that procurement and decision-making procedures must be streamlined to reduce red tape and enable quick decision-making in a cut-throat industry.
Management told the board that out of a fleet of 283 passenger coaches, only 108 are in use and these are in a deplorable state.
“255 kilometres of the 2760 kilometres of rail network are under speed restrictions to the extent that a train has to slow down to a speed of 10 kilometres per hour in these areas causing inordinate delays in transportation of commercial and industrial goods,” read the report.
The ligislators said the Centralised Train Control System (CTC) has been rendered dysfunctional due, in part, to vandalism.
“The Centralised Train Control System must be replaced as a matter of urgency to prevent loss of lives and/ or cargo resulting from fatal accidents,” said the legislators in the report.
NRZ employees are owed over $90 million in unpaid salaries and benefits.
Overall, the parastatal’s debt has since ballooned to $176 million. The Herald