We publish here the speech delivered by President Mnangagwa when he officially received the first batch of rail equipment on behalf of NRZ and the Government in Bulawayo yesterday.
Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe (Rtd) General Dr CGDN Chiwenga, Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde KDC Mohadi, Minister of State for Provincial affairs for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province Honourable A Masuku,
Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Honourable J M Gumbo, Other ministers and deputy ministers here present,
Members of Parliament here present, chairperson of the portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development Honourable C Chitindi, His Worship the Mayor of Bulawayo Clr M Moyo and councillors here present,
Governor of the Reserve Bank Of Zimbabwe Dr J Mangudya, Chairman person of the NRZ Board – Mr LD Mavima- and board members,
Chairperson of the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) Mr D Chimhandamba and board members, Transnet Group CEO Mr S Gama and Country Manager for Zimbabwe Mr F Ndlovu,
Executive Director, Southern African Railways Association and CEOs from other railways in the region, NRZ general manager Eng LA Makwadza, NRZ management and staff and heads of parastatals,
Captains of industry and NRZ customers here present, Senior Government Officials here present, Ladies and gentlemen, Comrades and friends.
It is with great pleasure that I address you on this historic occasion where we are witnessing the reception of essential resources for our rail system under the National Railways of Zimbabwe-Diaspora Infrastructure (DIDG) Transnet Consortium Recapitalisation Initiative.
I am certain that this marks a turning point of our rail infrastructure as we endeavour to provide enablers to fully re-industrialise our economy.
I am informed that, under this deal brokered between NRZ and DIDG /Transnet Consortium, NRZ is receiving 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 passenger coaches to address key resource gaps in its operations, as saw interim solution while negotiations for the recapitalisation programme are being finalised.
Today, we receive the first batch of equipment here at Bulawayo Station. This development is commended as it resonates well with our vision to grow the economy and at the same time ensure that the City of Kings is yet again the industrial hub, benefiting our great nation.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the rail system is essential in the transportation of bulk and heavy goods in strategic sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing industries .
To this end, the significance of an effective and efficient rail system cannot be over-emphasised, more so in a landlocked econ0my like ours, as it enhances our ability to compete and integrate ourselves into regional and international markets.
An efficient railway system further significantly reduces the cost at which we land our products in such markets. It has been observed that most landlocked countries in Africa incur higher inland costs to move goods to and from sea ports, making products uncompetitive across borders.
As a result, transport costs have been cited as one of the major obstacles to international trade and economic gr0wth in Africa.
In this regard, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap identified the expansion, upgrading and interconnection of the regional transport (road, rail, air and ports) as key in enhancing trade flows and the mobility of factors of production.
Increased investment is therefore needed to improve the quality of the regional transport network across all modes, while promoting alternative renewable energy sources for the rail transport sector.
In line with these SADC Guidelines on the Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, my Government is committed to ensure the modernisation, rehabilitation and refurbishment of our rail system and also establish new networks which penetrate into region.
This will in turn hasten regional integration and enhance our ability to offer lower transport costs, based on economies of scale and reduced cost of doing business. A rejuvenated railway network will therefore, not only benefit the country, but other countries in the sub-region.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, my Government is seized with the need to resuscitate large domestic industries in mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors such as, Zisco, Mashava Mine, Cold Storage Commission, Willowvale and David Whitehead Textiles, among others.
Comprehensive strategies have been put in place to revive the transport sector to enable and facilitate this projected growth, especially with regards the railway system.
An efficient railway network will help move bulk cargo from our roads and transfer it into the railways. Hence, our road and railway projects must be complementary and concurrent where possible.
The current scenario whereby our road transport is moving a lot of bulk cargo damages our roads and makes the roads unsafe and inconvenient to ordinary motorists.
It is my sincere hope that once the railway network has been restored to acceptable levels of efficiency, the necessary steps will be taken to move bulk cargo by rail.
In the same vein, I would like to exhort the Ministry of Infrastructural Development to expedite the commencement of the dualisation of Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway and many other road construction and rehabilitation projects throughout the country.
Any impediments in this regard must be urgently resolved so that our people can enjoy the associated safety, convenience and efficiency of these essential public utilities.
As I have pronounced, “Zimbabwe is open for business” as such, the speed with which we address challenges within our infrastructure and transport sector must be in sync with mantra.
The state and ambience of our road sides must exude a country that is ready for business. I thus encourage the responsible authorities to mount billboards in strategic areas along highways that communicate the vision and aspirations of our nation as espoused in this new dispensation.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to commend the DIDG and Transnet for putting together this deal with NRZ to the tune of $400 million.
Given my administration’s current efforts to turn around the economy, the timing of this project is most opportune . Furthermore, DIDG has demonstrated their patriotism and love for their county and also shown confidence in the future of Zimbabwe.
It is encouraging when my fellow Zimbabweans complement Government initiatives by bringing such a significant investment into the country.
This investment will not only revive the railway network, but will also benefit downstream, backward and forward linkage industries related to railway operations.
The realisation of these efforts we witness today will not only benefit industry, but will also provide efficient and affordable passenger transportation, a role that NRZ was constrained in fulfilling.
It is my hope that with rehabilitated infrastructure and better equipment, NRZ will be able to run dependable and consistent passenger train schedules.
We should dream of an era where our major cities are connected through punctual, fast and efficient passenger train service. My Government will continue to support the restoration of the railways through this NRZ/DIDG/Transnet Consortium deal.
I urge concerned parties to move swiftly and meticulously to conclude outstanding matters for a win-win outcome. Meanwhile, I would like to invite others in the Diaspora to emulate this sterling gesture and invest in other projects in various sectors of our economy to accelerate the rebuilding and development of our nation.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to appreciate the practice, perseverance and resilience of NRZ employees and management throughout the difficult phases of the parastatal.
I assure the NRZ workers and stakeholders that Government, together with NRZ board will put in place strategies to make your business and working conditions change for the better.
Do not despair or grow weary, but work, work and work, to make our national railways the pride of the nation yet again.
Ladies and gentlemen, with these remarks , may I therefore, declare and set the tone for the new NRZ course , by officially receiving this first batch of rail equipment on behalf of NRZ and the Government of Zimbabwe.
I thank you.