EDITORIAL COMMENT: NRZ revival initiatives commendable

NRZ (1)

WE are encouraged by reports that there is considerable progress towards the recapitalisation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe with the adjudication process to select the winning bidder from the six potential investors that have been shortlisted already underway.

As we report elsewhere in the Business Chronicle, the $400 million recapitalisation initiative for the parastatal is imminent with six potential investors being revealed as  Sino Hydro, China Civil Engineering, Crowhat International (from Europe), Croax Private Ltd (South Africa), Malaysia SMH Rail and DIDG/Transnet, a consortium of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and Transnet.

The tendering process was oversubscribed with over 80 investors attending the pre-bid conference held in Bulawayo on May 30, showing that there is huge investor appetite for the revival of the firm which is crucial for the overall resuscitation of the country’s economy.

The pre-bid conference attracted local as well as international investors from countries around the world such as China, India, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Malaysia and Dubai.

The NRZ is the engine that could drive economic growth since it is central to the movement of bulk commodities within and outside the country hence it is of paramount importance that Government attaches importance to its well-being. Its fortunes nose-dived at the height of economic challenges resulting in its infrastructure collapsing due to neglect and a lack of spare parts.

It also lost key staff among them signal engineers, technicians, enginemen and other artisans who joined the great trek to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, England and other countries in search of employment.

The company has been failing to pay workers and owes them millions of dollars in long overdue salaries. Due to inefficiency, it has lost business to haulage trucks which are, however, inflicting a heavy toll on the country’s road network.

The NRZ therefore needs to get back on its feet and aid in economic recovery efforts. The announcement that it is finalising the selection process for a winning bidder for the recapitalisation project is apt as this means that we are edging closer to the reality of a functional railway system in the country.

NRZ public relations manager Mr Nyasha Maravanyika told Business Chronicle on Monday that the adjudication process, which is ongoing, would be done by their adjudication committee until Friday.

“The adjudication process, which we call review project and valuation criteria, is penciled for this week up to Friday.

“From there our adjudication committee will have to present to the NRZ board by July 25, 2017, its recommendations to the ministry (Transport and Infrastructural Development) linking up with the State Procurement Board,” he said.

Mr Maravanyika said the adjudication committee would look at issues highlighted in the tender when it was advertised.

“The criteria for selecting the best investors from the six shortlisted potential investors will evolve around the issues in the tender process advert and it is the adjudication committee which will select the best investor for the $400 million NRZ recapitalisation programme,” he said.

We are glad that the selection process is being expedited as the revival of the NRZ is hinged on securing a strategic partner. We however, caution against the temptation to engage in corrupt activities during the selection process as this might compromise the whole exercise and sabotage efforts to recapitalise the company.

In this vein, we are hopeful that the firm will, by September, have signed a contract with the winning bidder to set the tone for the implementation of the recapitalisation project.

Although the $400m NRZ recapitalisation initiative, which involves the rehabilitation and renewal of plant, equipment, rolling stock, track signaling and telecommunications infrastructure and the supporting information technology (IT) systems, will fall far short of the $1.9 billion required in the long-term to put the firm on a sound footing, it is a good start.

It is also worth noting that the company is pursuing other funding packages such as the discussions with a Russian wagon manufacturer, Uniwagon, for the supply of 100 new wagons under a $10 million loan facility from Russia Export-Import Bank.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Engineer Michael Madanha told Parliament recently that the NRZ had already submitted relevant documentation to the Russians regarding the deal.

The rail company has also secured a loan of $5 million from a local financial institution, which it will use to rehabilitate five locomotives and 200 wagons.

In November 2016, the Government commissioned 31 state-of-the-art wagons from China Railway Rolling Stock Company under a $2.9 million deal for the NRZ, a move aimed at boosting the parastatal’s operational efficiency.

All these initiatives are commendable and show that the company is on the road to recovery and we call on authorities to give management all the support they need to ensure that they achieve their objectives. This is because of the strategic importance of the parastatal to the nation.

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