By Munyaradzi Musiiwa and Judith Phiri
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona has expressed dissatisfaction with the state of affairs at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and challenged the parastatal’s board to come up with a feasible and pragmatic turnaround strategy to revive the company.
NRZ has 10 working locomotives out of 67 and has failed to attract business from mining companies moving heavy metals in and outside the country. The organisation requires at least US$400 million to get back on its feet in the short term.
Speaking after touring NRZ properties in Bulawayo on Friday, Minister Mhona said NRZ required fresh capital injection to totally revitalise the parastatal and while the ministry engages the Treasury to avail some of the required resources, the board should also look at other prospective suitors to revive the parastatal.
Minister Mhona said most of the machinery and locomotives at NRZ were obsolete and were not moving with changing technologies. He said NRZ must make itself competitive on the market to become the transporter of choice and attract business.
“What I saw today belongs to the scrapyard. Those machines and equipment are outdated. To capacitate NRZ from the fiscus, the cake is very small. We go each year as a ministry and sometimes you are given a third of what you are anticipating. Despite the cake being small as a nation we are endowed with mineral resources and we can turn around the organisation ourselves.
It is not about having the money but also the capacity to have the ideas of generating the money. We need the NRZ board to give us a turnaround strategy. The moment you go with a begging bowl to the Treasury you will be frustrated because the Treasury is incapacitated.
The board should also look at strategic partnership. The moment you become vibrant and robust we attract business,” he said.
Minister Mhona said Government was also seeking to transport all heavy goods and metals by rail to prolong the lifespan of the roads.
“It is noble to move our goods from road to rail. Our roads are in a sorry state because there are heavy metals and goods being transported by road. Moving heavy goods from the roads and have them transported by road is the way to go,” he said.
NRZ board chairman Advocate Martin Dinha said NRZ required at least 40 locomotives for it to be able to meet some of the service requirements. He said NRZ required 300 new and modern coaches and 300 wagons.
“We don’t have enough traction power as NRZ. The NRZ board has always been on record in appealing to the Government to assist in terms of capacitation.
“We need at least 40 locomotives, 300 wagons and 300 coaches and this request had been given to Government and for us to move forward and achieve what we want that is the capacity needed to turn around the organisation. In terms of figures it is difficult to give them in terms of how much it costs. One locomotive costs around US$3 million. For 40 it is around US$120 million,” he said. The Sunday News