Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT plans to improve the interconnectivity of the National Railways of Zimbabwe with other countries in the region to improve the parastatal’s market share and revenue, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday.
In an interview after touring NRZ infrastructure and workshops in Bulawayo, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza said this was part of the parastatal’s turnaround strategy.
“We are working on certain policy issues that will assist the revamping of the NRZ. We want to improve interconnectivity with regional countries such as Namibia.
“We want rail connectivity with Namibia from Hwange because of a dry port that Zimbabwe has in that country. The dry port (at Walvis Bay) has to be linked with a railway line from Hwange so that we are able to move from Hwange what will be destined for the export markets.
“Even our goods coming into the country from the dry port can be transported by rail that will link Zimbabwe and Namibia,” he said.
Construction of the dry port facility, which is expected to be launched by President Mnangagwa soon, was completed recently.
It is hoped that the dry port facility at Walvis Bay will increase business and trade opportunities between Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.
Other proposed routes include the Lion’s Den to Kafue in Zambia.
“For Zambia we just need clear cut connectivity from Lion’s Den to Kafue. In Mozambique, we already have a railway line but we need to be more efficient in terms of moving freight such as minerals and other commodities,” Minister Matiza said.
During his tour, Minister Matiza was accompanied by NRZ’s newly-appointed board chairman, Advocate Martin Dinha, the general manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada and the parastatal’s senior management.
The Minister and his entourage toured the NRZ main railway station where he saw a passenger coach that has been fitted with solar lights under the firm’s installation of solar lights on passenger coaches programme.
Minister Matiza concluded the tour by visiting the company’s Central Electrical Workshop and the Motive Power Depot in Sizinda and Mpopoma respectively.
Commenting on the state of the NRZ infrastructure after the tour, the Minister said:
“The infrastructure is good, solid and skilled people are there. We might need to get a few but they are all there and this will help now with our new thrust, our new turnaround programme.
“This infrastructure we will support it with no problems at all, so I am happy that we are going to move forward.
“We want to make sure that the track and the rolling stock is there and interconnectivity is achieved so that we can link with other countries.”
In a separate interview after the tour, Adv Dinha expressed optimism that the turnaround of the NRZ was pragmatic and the entity would be restored to its former glory.
“Basically, I have high hopes to turnaround the NRZ. With my board and management, we will re-awaken the giant and ensure that we come to 100 percent capacity utilisation.
“NRZ was a big player in the economic configuration of Zimbabwe in 1980, employing about 20 000 people and now it has gone down to 4 700 and we want it to come back to where it was and surpass that record.
“We are looking at realising His Excellency, President Mnangagwa’s vision of a middle income economy by 2030 meaning all our service industries must come to that level.
“We want growth in terms of business to enable the NRZ to be an enabler in economic turnaround efforts. It must service heavy industries, mining and of course, our commuters,” he said.
In 2017, NRZ signed a US$400 million recapitalisation project with the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group/Transnet Consortium to recapitalise operations at the country’s railways firm as well as rehabilitating its infrastructure.
As financial closure of the deal is yet to be reached, NRZ and Transnet last year signed an interim arrangement to capacitate the parastatal’s operations before the US$400 million deal comes on board.
Under the framework agreement, NRZ is leasing 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 passenger coaches from Transnet as an interim solution to its resource gaps. —@okazunga