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NRZ revival will cut transport costs: Gumbo

By Walter Mswazie

The scheduled resuscitation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) will go a long way in preventing the damage of national roads, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Jorum Gumbo has said.

National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) trains
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) trains

Speaking during the commissioning of the rehabilitated 35 kilometre-long Nandi–Mkwasine railway line in Chiredzi on Wednesday, Dr Gumbo said the recapitalisation of the NRZ will see bulk goods being transported by the rail system. The $10 million rehabilitation was undertaken by Government in partnership with the European Union.

“The Nandi–Mkwasine Railway Line Upgrading Project is a result of cooperation between the EU and Government of Zimbabwe. It was consummated under the National Sugar Adaptation Strategy, jointly funded by the EU and the NRZ. EU contributed $7,5 million, while NRZ put $2,5 million into the project. I understand this is part of a comprehensive support extended to our indigenous cane farmers,” said Minister Gumbo.

Minister Gumbo said the programme demonstrated the success of public-private partnerships (PPPs) being promoted by the Government. He said the project – which was supported by the NRZ and the EU, through Canelands Trust and Tongaat Hullet Zimbabwe – entailed joint railway infrastructure upgrading.

“It is also a fulfilment of Government’s policy on promoting PPPs through the involvement of both public and private players in capacity building and other socio-economic development projects in the country,” he said.

Minister Gumbo said the revival of the NRZ will cut the cost of transporting bulk goods and passengers in Zimbabwe. Government has agreed a $400 million deal with a foreign investor, DIDG/Transnet, for the recapilisation of the parastatal.

“Rail transport is cheaper to the citizenry as compared to other forms of transport. It will be cheaper to use rail transport in transporting bulk goods and it saves the country’s roads from damage by haulage trucks,” said Minister Gumbo.

“The recapitalisation of NRZ will involve the overhauling and renewal of rail infrastructure and equipment. This includes tracks, signalling, wagons, locomotives, as well as plant and equipment. We envision the rebirth of a standard, upmarket and modern rail transportation system that will transform our country.”

NRZ board chairman Mr Larry Mavhima said some of the company’s turnaround strategies were to reduce the operating costs and improve internal systems.

“Some of the major components of our turnaround strategies include reducing costs, sanitising the organising balance sheets, as well as updating and improving the organisation’s internal systems and processes.

Employee costs, however, remain a cost driver because of the organisation’s geographic dispersion system and our largely manually based systems,” he said.

Minister of State for Masvingo Province Senator Josaya Hungwe hailed NRZ for forging partnerships with private players in addressing challenges faced by the rail transport sector in Zimbabwe.

“As the people of Masvingo, especially sugarcane farmers from Mkwasine and the rest of the Lowveld, we are happy with such partnership between Government and EU,” said Cde Hungwe.

“I think that is why our new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has retained Dr Gumbo to the same ministry because my fellow comrade is a hard worker.”

Present at the occasion were the EU head of economic cooperation and food security, Mr Thomas Opperer; Tongaat Hulett managing director Mr Sydney Mutsambiwa, Chief Tshovani, Chief Gudo, Transport and Infrastructure Development Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Cde Dexter Nduna; and Chiredzi East MP Cde Denford Masiya. The Herald