Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) has started manufacturing 6 000 rail sleepers for Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway while plans are underway to produce 60 000 more for the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
DIDG, which won the US$400 million National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) recapitalisation project tender in 2017, said it was now strongly positioned to start implementing the railways recapitalisation programme.
This was after DIDG received backing from AfreximBank and other regional and international finance institutions. Speaking from Gweru, DIDG manufacturing director, Engineer Tayarudza Mutongoreya, said: “Fort Concrete is at the heart of our plans to rehabilitate the NRZ track infrastructure. We have produced shelverts for DDF (District Development Fund) as part of the Cyclone Idai disaster recovery.
“After receiving all raw materials required to produce sleepers, we have started with the production of 6 000 rail sleepers for Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR).”
BBR is a privately-owned railway entity that provides the rail link between Beitbridge and Bulawayo.
“We have started with sleepers for BBR Concession Company and immediately thereafter we would start making 60 000 sleepers over 10 months for NRZ as per the orders we received,” said Eng Mutongoreya, who has been based in South Africa for more than 13 years working at Sasol Mining Chemicals and now part of the DIDG team.
He said his organisation was of the view that the critical companies associated with rail value chain needed also to be recapitalised alongside NRZ to ensure NRZ operations were sustainable.
“Some of our corporate action will include investing in companies like Fort Concrete while in other scenarios like Zeco and local foundries, we will forge strategic partnerships but all aimed at increasing domestic procurement and minimise import bill that increases pressure on the foreign currency requirements.
“We are happy with the progress we are making on NRZ and we are hopeful that very soon we will commence with full NRZ recapitalisation as per our plans,” said Eng Mutongoreya.
Last month, the NRZ board approved the funding offer from DIDG for the recapitalisation of the railways entity and referred it to Treasury for consideration. In his state of the nation address last week, President Mnangagwa announced DIDG had secured the required funding for NRZ recapitalisation.
In a separate interview, Zeco Holdings chairman Dr Philip Chiyangwa confirmed yesterday that his company was working on plans with DIDG to ensure Zeco has capacity to manufacture and refurbish wagons and other rolling stock.
“We work together to ensure that there is production of at least 100 new wagons and other various wagons within NRZ.
“We have been the supplier to NRZ for decades, so it’s basically trying to also revive the industrial base of Bulawayo as it was once the biggest industrial hub of the country,” he said.
NRZ is the country’s strategic transporter and has a design capacity to move 18 million tonnes of freight a year but is presently moving less than four million tonnes.
The scheduled recapitalisation programme is expected to improve freight volumes. — @okazunga