Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
THE government is engaging debtors owing more than $30 million to the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) as part of its efforts to resuscitate the parastatal.
The parastatal will also seek partnership with the private sector to boost its operations.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joram Gumbo said on Wednesday that NRZ was owed a lot of money by both foreign and local debtors.
“DRC owes $2,8 million to NRZ, while other local companies owe the company $9 million in unpaid rentals,” he said.
“GMB owes NRZ $7 million, Ziscosteel owes $9 million, Zimforce owes $600,000, while Zimasco and ZPC owe the parastatal $1,1 million and 1,2 million respectively.”
Gumbo said NRZ was dogged by serious problems that included low capacity, a dwindling customer base and obsolete equipment.
The company has also been facing challenges in payment of salaries to workers and is in salary arrears for more than a year. It already has a wage bill of $4 million per month.
“The ministry is concerned with the situation at the NRZ characterised by delays in the payment of salaries and failure by the organisation to pay retrenchees their full packages,” said Gumbo.
“The company needs recapitalisation. The government is in the process of engaging foreign debtors to pay up what they owe NRZ. Zimbabwe will be meeting the DRC from February 16 to February 22 in Zimbabwe. We hope the meeting will be fruitful in accordance with the cordial relations between the two countries.
“The ministry will also approach the government for resolution of those debts once Cabinet resumes its sittings.”
Gumbo said there was need to recapitalise NRZ and promote the use of the railway system to ease pressure on roads.
“We’ve noted that a number of companies that used to make use of rail transport are no longer functional,” he said.
“NRZ used to rely on transportation of sugar and Ziscosteel products, but these entities are no longer functional.
“The ministry notes the appeal from the railways stakeholders to ring-fence some products to rail.
“We’re identifying the products to be ring-fenced and will engage the government for a way forward in the national interest, given the rail requirements and the impact on road infrastructure.
“On rentals from NRZ properties, we’ve instructed management that every single dollar be collected and accounted for. We realised that not all tenants are up to date with their rentals.”
There were allegations by some of the retrenched employees that NRZ went on to employ more workers after their dismissal.
Gumbo dismissed the allegations and said NRZ was working to come up with a payment plan to pay retrenchees.
“The ministry implores NRZ staff and other internal stakeholders to exercise restraint and avoid any form of industrial and other actions that may derail government’s efforts to ensure lines of credit to recapitalise the parastatal,” he said.
“Workers should understand the situation we are in. NRZ is not moving any volumes.”