By Oliver Kazunga
The National Railways of Zimbabwe has engaged experts from South Africa to train its enginemen as part of a framework agreement under the $400 million recapitalisation programme.
The mega deal with between NRZ and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/Transnet was signed last year in August. Under the arrangement, the NRZ is leasing 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 passenger coaches as an interim solution to its operational challenges.
The deal involves the rehabilitation and renewal of plant, equipment, rolling stock, signalling and telecommunications infrastructure as well as supporting information technology systems. President Mnangagwa last Wednesday officially received the first batch of the railway equipment comprising 150 wagons, seven locomotives and seven passenger coaches during a ceremony in Bulawayo. In an interview NRZ general manager Engineer Lewis Mukwada said his organisation has adequate manpower to operate the locomotives.
“We have enough enginemen but we always have an ongoing programme for training even as we talk right now there is a class running for learner enginemen. Our compliment of enginemen runs to over 150 train drivers of various grades. We have senior enginemen, junior and then we have got shunt enginemen. But you will also notice that this equipment we are getting here is newer technology, they have got on board computers in the locomotives so part of the deal is that we have instructors that are coming in from South Africa to train our staff to operate these locomotives.”
Eng Mukwada also said the foreign experts will assist in maintenance work in those areas where NRZ training previously did not cover.
“So the whole deal has got an element of skills transfer,” he said, adding that the NRZ training school was quite big and has also been accredited to run other outside courses.
“Where we have faced challenges (in terms of adequate human resources) is the area of diesel plant fitters and diesel locomotive electricians and this is where we have experienced skills flight to South Africa, Australia, and Namibia and so on,” he said.
As the parastatal was now being resuscitated, Eng Mukwada said a number of its former artisans in the Diaspora have expressed interest in coming back once its resuscitated and able to offer competitive conditions of service. At its peak in the 1990s, NRZ employed about 20 000 people with competitive conditions of service but due to operational challenges it faced over the years, the parastatal’s employment figures plummeted to below 5 000.
It is hoped that NRZ, which requires $1,7 billion in the long-term will increase its capacity to 5.3 million tonnes per year to six million tonnes over the next three years. Last year, the parastatal moved 3.1 million tonnes up from 2.9 million tonnes. In the 1990s, the strategic logistics firm was moving 18 million tonnes of freight per year. The Sunday Mail