Robert Mugabe’s trains held in China over debts

A Chinese firm has frozen the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ)'s locomotive order over a US$27 million debt derailing plans by the country's sole railway operator to rejuvenate the struggling parastatal.\r\n

The grounded NRZ is currently on recovery path after close to ten years of nose diving presumptively due to mal-administration and vandalism.

China North Railway Company (CNRC) had initially received a US$3 million deposit fee from the NRZ in the purchase of locomotives in a deal valued at US$30 million. The CNRC then indicated that it would only make delivery to the NRZ upon the full payment of the money.

NRZ has since appealed to the government for more than US$25 million to go towards the payment of the outstanding amount that is frustrating efforts to procure the desperately needed locomotives.

The NRZ currently has one functional electric locomotive out of 10 and nearly US$274 million is required to recapitalise the parastatal, which is also battling a massive debt overhang.

The current depleted fleet has outlived its lifespan of 25 years by about 35 more years as it is now more than 40 years old and early this year the World Bank advised the NRZ to shut off 80 percent of its railway track which it deemed unserviceable.