Walter Mswazie in Chiredzi
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) yesterday commissioned a $10 million rehabilitated railway line in Chiredzi.
The investment, a joint venture partnership between Government and the European Union, is expected to go a long way in reducing bulk transport costs, improve efficiency in cargo movement and prevent the damage on national roads.
Speaking during the commissioning of the 35km newly rehabilitated Nandi–Mkwasine railway line in Chiredzi, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Dr Joram Gumbo said the recapitalisation of NRZ will save national road network from damage as transportation of bulk goods will revert back to rail transport system.
“The Nandi-Mkwasine railway line upgrading project is a result of cooperation between the EU and the Government of Zimbabwe,” said Dr Gumbo.
“It was consummated under the National Sugar Adaptation Strategy jointly funded by the EU and NRZ. EU contributed $7,5 million while NRZ put in $2,5 million into the project. I understand this is part of a comprehensive support extended to our indigenous cane farmers,” he said.
Minister Gumbo said the completion of the project demonstrates the success of public private partnerships (PPPs), which Government was promoting.
“This project entailed joint railway infrastructure upgrading and received support from NRZ and the EU through Canelands Trust and Tongaat Hullet Zimbabwe. 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.
Dr Gumbo said the revival of NRZ would be a cost cutting measure on the transportation of bulk goods and passengers in the country. Government has secured about $400 million for the recapitalisation of the NRZ from a foreign consortium and only a few modalities are left before the finalisation of the deal.
“Rail transport is cheaper to the citizenry compared to other forms of transport. It will be cheaper to use rail transport in transporting bulk goods and it saves the country’s road from being damaged by haulage trucks,” he said.
“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, up market and modern rail transportation system that will transform our country.”
NRZ board chairman, Mr Larry Mavhima, said some of the company’s turnaround strategies include reducing the operating costs and improving internal systems.
“Some of the major components of our turnaround strategies include reducing costs, sanitising the organisation’s balance sheet as well as updating and improving the organisation’s internal systems and processes. Employee costs, however, remain a high cost driver because the NRZ’s systems are largely manually based,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion Masvingo Minister of State for Provincial affairs, Senator Josiah Hungwe, hailed NRZ for forging partnership with private players in addressing challenges faced by the rail transport sector.
“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. I think that is why our new President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa has retained Dr Gumbo to the same Ministry,” said Senator Hungwe.
Present at the occasion were; EU head of economic Co-operation and Food Security Mr Thomas Opperer, Tongaat Hullets Managing Director Mr Sydney Mutsambiwa, Chief Tshovani, Chief Gudo, Transport Parliamentary Portfolio Chairman, Dexter Nduna, Chiredzi East MP, Cde Denford Masiya among others.