NRZ rehabilitation a matter of urgency: Chiduwa
Nqobile Bhebhe, Senior Business Reporter
THERE is an urgent need to rehabilitate the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) railway network and ensure procurement of new locomotives to enhance its capacity to meet the demands of the growing economy.
Finance and Economic Development Deputy Minister, Clemence Chiduwa, said this during a stakeholder economics engagement meeting in Bulawayo on Monday where he stated that NRZ, as a strategic bulk transportation company, must upgrade its operations in tandem with the development of the economy.
He said an efficient railway network will lessen the burden on the road infrastructure.
At the moment, bulk consignments such as coal are transported through roads, a development attributed to the collapse of road network.
“Our railway infrastructure needs a lot of money for rehabilitation and I’m a co-chair looking into the revival of NRZ.
“At the moment we need US$115 million to be used to buy locomotives and repair the rail network,” said Chiduwa.
“This is part of the development agenda where the rail system should develop at the same rate with the development of the economy.”
He told the meeting, which was held to deliver an update on progress under the National Development Strategy (NDS1) that the country’s economy is developing faster than the rail system.
This has seen more economic players relying on roads for bulk transport, which places an extra burden on major highways.
“The priority is to make sure that the rail network is developed,” said Deputy Minister Chidawu.
Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes, Dr Joram Gumbo, is on record saying the Government has pledged ZW$2 billion to fund the refurbishment and resuscitation of NRZ as the transport entity is a cog in the attainment of Vision 2030.
He said the Government is determined to resuscitate NRZ to enable the country to benefit from a robust and efficient railway network.
NRZ is battling a number of challenges among them a depleted rolling stock fleet, ageing railway line and old coaches with the average life span of its wagons ranging between 40 and 60 years while the last batch of locomotives was purchased 29 years ago.
NDS1 is a five-year medium-term plan aimed at realising the country’s Vision 2030, while simultaneously addressing the global aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa Agenda 2063.
In his national 2023 budget statement, Finance and Economic Development minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube noted that service provision by NRZ has remained poor, at a time demand for its services are needed to lower the cost of cargo freight in support of economic transformation.
Given the huge capital requirements needed to re-establish service provision, the NRZ Recapitalisation Road Map, to be implemented from 2023, seeks to leverage the parastatal’s assets to crowd in private sector funding.
Prof Ncube said Phase I of the project is targeting the rehabilitation of rail infrastructure, procurement of locomotives, wagons and passenger trains that will improve cash flows to support the recovery of NRZ.