Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE country’s rail infrastructure has the potential to be transformed into a global status and it is key that efforts should now be harnessed in rebuilding and branding the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
In 2017, the NRZ and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/ Transnet consortium penned a US$400 million recapitalisation deal aimed at resuscitating the railways entity.
Last week, DIDG executive chairman Mr Donovan Chimhandamba told Business Chronicle that they have made submissions to NRZ board following the recent appointment of AfreximBank as the lead arranger and coordinating bank to mobilise the required funding.
Speaking by telephone from his United Kingdom base last week, a Zimbabwean rail expert Mr Kudzai Makuku who is also the construction manager at Network Rail in that country said:
“As DIDG has won the tender for the US$400 million NRZ recapitalisation project, it is critical that rebuilding and rebranding of the rail infrastructure begins in earnest so that the entity achieves a global status.
“Taking advantage of the geographical location Zimbabwe has in Sadc, NRZ needs a better rail system that will enable it to serve the Sadc corridor.
“Rail requires high cabotages cost to invest in but once developed it is easily one of the most efficient and environmentally positive ways to transport heavy goods.”
Mr Makuku said as NRZ gets resuscitated the parastatal needs to be transformed in manner that would also allow the parastatal to play its strategic role in serving the Sadc region given the operationalisation of infrastructure such as the Walvis Dry Port in Namibia.
“Historically, NRZ business was largely anchored on giant firms such as Zisco, now that these giant pillars are defunct as we step into the future, we must look even outside our borders.
“If tomorrow Zimbabwe is going to resume car assembling as we used to do at Willowvale Motor Industries, such a project will need good rail links to take the assembled vehicle to the regional export market,” he said.
In June this year, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joe Biggie Matiza said Government plans to improve the interconnectivity of NRZ with other regional countries to improve the parastatal’s market share and revenue.
“You must also understand that currently many people are using rail transport.
“And if we are to introduce a good rail link, this will surely reduce demand on road transport and thus subsequently impact positively on the existing fuel shortages in the country,” said Mr Makuku. — @okazunga