Leonard Ncube in Livingstone
ZIMBABWE and Zambia are preparing for a tripartite meeting with South Africa to deliberate on legacy indivisible assets jointly owned by the two northern neighbours through the Emerged Railways Properties (ERP) in South Africa.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona led a delegation from his Ministry and National Railways of Zimbabwe officials to a meeting with their Zambian counterparts in Livingstone, across the Zambezi River yesterday.
The council of ministers meeting was meant to prepare for next week’s tripartite meeting with South Africa in Victoria Falls.
The legacy indivisible assets include vast mineral rights covering close to two million hectares of land in South Africa left to Zimbabwe and Zambia by the former coloniser, Cecil John Rhodes.
Rhodes, using the British South Africa Company, colonised Zambia and Zimbabwe in 1888 and 1890 respectively before the two neighbours became known as Northern and Southern Rhodesia as they formed a federation.
The Cape government awarded Rhodes’ company Bechuanaland Railway Company Limited, vast stretches of land to facilitate the construction of the railway in present day South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
On June 1, 1899 Bechuanaland Railway Company changed name to Rhodesia Railways Limited which managed to retain ownership of mineral rights in South Africa excluding land rights, through the Rhodes Trust.
The mineral rights covered an area in excess of 1,7 million hectares over 523 farms and in the 1930s Rhodes sold some of his land and retained mineral rights in South Africa.
The Rhodes Trust left the mineral rights in equal shares to modern Zimbabwe and Zambia but the process of transferring mineral rights is not yet complete.
There are 1 660 000ha of mineral rights in North West and Northern Cape provinces in South Africa following the recent loss of 40 000ha to Aquila through a Constitutional Court judgment (CCT08/18) in South Africa.
The other indivisible assets left by the Trust include the Victoria Falls Hotel and the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Zimbabwe and Zambia jointly incorporated the ERP (PVT) LTD in 1997 to manage the indivisible assets through the Zambia Railways Limited (ZRL) and National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
In 1990, Rhodesia Railways became Zimbabwe-Zambia Pvt Ltd (Ziza), a subsidiary of ERP.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding based on this background, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa formed a company called Pan African Minerals Development Company (PMDC) to hold and exploit the mineral rights.
Zambia Transport and Logistics Minister Frank Tayali who chaired the proceedings said Zambia and Zimbabwe are delighted that South Africa was showing enthusiasm to work together to chart a way forward.
“We are very delighted as Zambian Government to host the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development from Zimbabwe. Essentially the team from Zimbabwe has come here in preparation for a meeting between Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa next week in Victoria Falls. Zambia and Zimbabwe operate a company called Emerged Railway Properties which has interest in mining rights on a piece of land bequeathed to Rhodesia.
“Subsequently the two sister countries felt it was important that going forward we bring in South Africa being the place where the rights and property are situated to complete the circuit. We have had this property for a long time and there have been challenges that have inhibited progress being made in terms of actualising the benefits that should accrue to these mineral rights,” said Minister Tayali.
He said the piece of land in question is substantial but not much has been done in terms of exploitation of benefits that should accrue out of it and the mineral rights.
Minister Tayali said the tripartite meeting will bring a lasting solution going forward.
Minister Mhona said the two countries met at a time when it had become absolutely necessary to find a lasting solution to governance, operation and liability challenges.
He said Zimbabwe and Zambia co-operate on various platforms and on a number of projects anchored on shared vision of transforming economies to an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
“This meeting is testimony to the commitment by our two sister republics towards the cause of infrastructure development. Let us bear in mind that the opportunities offered by the ERP create room for scaling up on areas of cooperation in areas of infrastructure through these partnerships.
“Let’s scale our government-to-government co-operation in infrastructure development and deepen relations as these are a catalyst for a stronger relations between our two countries to attain upper middle income status,” said Minister Mhona.
He said developing reliable transport infrastructure including rail, is imperative for industrialisation and modernisation of the counties.
Minister Mhona said the two countries can reap huge benefits across all economic sectors by working harmoniously together.
“Now that we have engaged as Zambia and Zimbabwe, we will use that as the springboard of power to unlock value,” he said. [email protected]