Walter Nyamukondiwa : Chinhoyi Bureau
Government can generate local capital to revive the struggling National Railways of Zimbabwe through leveraging on bulk movement of goods such as minerals and maize imports, a parliamentary committee has said. With an estimated 30 million tonnes of chrome ore expected to be exported following the lifting of a ban on exports, NRZ can realise at least $2 billion in the short to medium-term, if it moves the bulk of the cargo.NRZ needs at least $700 million to recapitalise and become competitive.
Transport and Infrastructure Development parliamentary committee chairperson Cde Dexter Nduna, said bulk importation of maize under the drought mitigation programme presented an opportunity for the revival of NRZ.
“If we can have a deliberate policy to approach bulk movers like Hwange Colliery and the Grain Marketing Board so that they can move at least 20 percent of their cargo through rail, it will go a long way in resuscitating the NRZ,” said Cde Nduna.
“We welcome the move by Government to lift the ban on chrome ore exports as a panacea to the resuscitation and reinvestment in NRZ.”
The committee’s call comes at a time when Government is working on a Statutory Instrument to ban bulk movement of goods on the country’s roads, with rail expected to play a major role.
This is, however, set to put Government on a collision course with haulage truck operators who had established a thriving niche, as the bulk of transit cargo on the North-South corridor is moved by road.
At its peak, NRZ used to move around 20 million tonnes of goods through its nearly 3 000km rail network, but this has since plummeted to around 3,5 million tonnes per year.
Cde Nduna said NRZ could self-capitalise or at least meet the bigger chunk needed to recapitalise and buy new rolling stock and wagons.
Concern has been raised over the effect of bulk movement of goods on the country’s roads, which have gone beyond their lifespan owing to financial challenges.
The committee also noted that staff rationalisation was another key ingredient in the resuscitation of NRZ following revelations that it had more people occupying management positions than necessary.
There are at least 300 managers, with the bulk of them being human resources managers out of a staff complement of around 5 600 workers.
“There is need to restructure the manpower and management. There is no need to have such a high number of human resource managers for such an entity. This is one key area that needs to be addressed,” Cde Nduna said.
Government recently appointed a board to oversee the resuscitation of NRZ, which has been registering annual losses over the years.