Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
TRANSPORT and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo has appointed businessman Larry Mavima as the new National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) board chairman.
He replaces Alvord Mabena, a former NRZ general manager, who was relieved of his duties last November.
Mavima comes on board at a time when the limping giant parastatal needs at least $400 million for recapitalisation. He is also expected to tame legacy debts to different creditors including workers and steer the entity to profitability after years of loss making.
Minister Gumbo introduced Mavima, 63, to the parastatal’s top management and staff in Bulawayo yesterday before conducting his first tour of the company since his appointment as minister late last year.
“I’ve brought in a new board chairman for NRZ, Larry Mavima, to introduce him to the board and top management here,” said Gumbo.
He maintained the composition of other board members while acting general manager Engineer Louise Mukwada also remains in that capacity until further notice.
“If given a responsibility you’ve to make decisions and I’ll make a decision on the general manager. For the time being I’m not talking about him,” said the minister.
Gumbo said the NRZ has a lot of potential and capacity to operate profitably but lacked requisite financing in a generally funding starved economy.
He said his ministry was already engaged in discussions with potential partners but would not be drawn to disclose further details.
“I’ll not tell you who I’m courting but there are about three alternatives we’re pursuing and as we do that we will look for the best partner,” said the minister, urging caution in selecting partners.
He, however, could not suggest a quick fix to the woes facing struggling workers who are owed more than a year’s salary and retrenchees yet to receive their dues but urged continued “patriotism and patience” while measures were being put in place to address their plight.
At its peak, the NRZ used to employ close to 15,000 workers, a figure that has dropped to around 5,000.
Gumbo said the government was exploring all avenues to revamp the NRZ to play its strategic role, particularly in transporting grain to different parts of the country to curb starvation following a crippling drought.
In an interview, Mavima said he was “excited” to be appointed chairman of NRZ.
“What I’ve seen here clearly shows this is a massive organisation that can be restructured and turned around to play an important role in the economy of the country,” he said.
He pledged his commitment to working closely with management, employees, all stakeholders, creditors, customers and government in turning around the company.
Mavima holds a Degree in Business Administration and a Masters in Finance from California University in the United States.
He boasts vast experience in business and corporate administration having worked for top companies in the US after graduation before returning home in the early 1980s.
Locally, Mavima has held different managerial posts in different companies.
The Zvishavane-born businessman is one of the brains behind the Brian and Lawrence Company, which championed the flea market concept in the country in the 1990s.
He holds a stake in Wilderness Safaris which runs lodges in Hwange and Victoria Falls. The former Zvishavane-Runde MP (2008-13) also has shares in Smart Bags (Pvt) Ltd, a plastics manufacturing firm in Harare which supplies milling and seed houses.
Mavima is an active politician and a member of the Zanu-PF central committee.