Thupeyo Muleya and Abigail Mawonde
THE revival of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has started in earnest, with the arrival of the first batch of locomotives, wagons and passenger coaches from South Africa at the weekend. The consignment of seven locomotives, 108 wagons and 8 passenger coaches arrived from South Africa on Saturday, via Beitbridge.
Another 92 wagons and six more locomotives will be delivered at the end of the month. The parastatal has also started clearing salary areas that date back to 17 months. NRZ Board chairman Mr Larry Mavima said they were expecting more deliveries of equipment by the end of the week.
“We have received the initial consignment as we move a gear up towards resuscitating NRZ. We expect more locomotives, wagons and coaches by the end of the week.
“The whole package includes 10 locomotives, three shunt locomotives, 34 passenger coaches and 200 wagons,”he said.
Mr Mavima said the revival of NRZ will breathe life into several organisations which depend on the transport and logistics sector.
He said they had brought in the equipment as part of an interim solution to capacitate the country’s rail transport, while they await the delivery of new equipment which has already been ordered.
“So far we have ordered for new wagons and locomotives, which we expect to be delivered in the next six months and two year respectively.
“These are the fruits of a new Government led by President Mnangangwa, and our mandate as NRZ is to contribute to national economic development through relatively cheaper transport and logistics facilities,”said Mr Mavima.
The arrival of the equipment is part of a US$400 million recapitalisation deal sealed between Government, South African firm Transnet and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group.
By the end of day yesterday, one locomotive with 50 wagons had left Beitbridge for NRZ headquarters in Bulawayo. Last night, NRZ general manager Engineer Lewis Mukwada said the consignment sourced under the first phase of the programme will be officially commissioned this Friday.
DIDG chief executive officer Mr Donavan Chimhandamba said: “The initial batch of seven locomotives and 108 wagons has crossed into Zimbabwe. These will be arriving in Bulawayo between Monday and Tuesday.
“In addition we are expecting more locomotives and passenger coaches to arrive in Musina, South Africa, by end of day on Tuesday.
“These are on lease from Spoornet and will be replaced by new ones which are being manufactured by Transnet Engineering and shall be delivered within 18 months”.
President Mnangagwa is expected to commission 200 coaches and 13 locomotives in Bulawayo this week. The trains were leased from South African company Spoornet until the Transnet-DIDG deal is fully implemented. Government has prioritised resuscitation of rail infrastructure as one of the pillars of economic revival.
It is understood that Transnet and DIDG will administer NRZ trains under a build-operate-transfer arrangement, and will assist to raise freight capacity, operate and maintain existing and new infrastructure, and generate revenue.
The parastatal is set to rake in over US$2 million in revenue annually. Another source close to the project said:“Under this initiative a total of $128 million will be committed on refurbishing or upgrading the rail tracks while another $72 million will be spent on revamping the communication signal.
“There are about 255km of track that needs to be rehabilitated and are spread across the country over 2,760km (per way). We expect this to be rolled out over three years,”said the source.
The developments comes as the NRZ, which had gone for 17 months without paying its employees, has started remunerating the workers. This has brought relief to the employees some of whom were now failing to fend for their families.
In memo to its employees seen by The Herald dated January 24, 2018, NRZ General Manager Engineer Lewis Mukwada announced the payment schedule to the workers.
It reads: “ It is advised for the information of all staff members that the net salary disbursements for the month of September 2016 will commence week beginning 29 January 2018 for Sub-grades A1 – C2. It is envisaged that all employees will have been paid by 09 February 2018. The percentage range of 60 to 70 percent net salaries will be maintained subject to the minimum payment of US$150.00. Kindly ensure that staff under your control is made aware of the foregoing payment arrangements.”