Restructuring and Rehabilitation of the NRZ (National Railways of Zimbabwe)
Considering the current state of the National Railways of Zimbabwe , the first question that comes to a logical and progressive mind is, “does the NRZ have a strategic rail master plan.”
The NRZ has been critical to the economic growth of Zimbabwe by connecting all major economic centres domestically, regionally and internationally. Since time immemorial it has been the prefered mode of transport for bulk raw materials and passengers before standards deteriorated.
In Zimbabwe, the railway network connects all major mines and heavy industrial plants, as well as major collection points for farms. The system has three well connected hubs Bulawayo, Gweru and Harare.
NRZ is also at the centre of shorter and cost-effective railroad links between Malawi and South Africa through Bulawayo, Lusaka and Durban port through Bulawayo and Beira port through Harare. In the past 20 years the capacity of NRZ to provide services has been severely eroded due to the deterioration of track infrastructure. Lack of regular repairs and maintenance resulting from financial constraints due to corruption led to the current state of the NRZ.
The railway system has served as a primary conduit for agricultural and other natural resources and this was largely attributed by high standards, professionalism and routing that was adopted. Due to the economic quagmire facing the nation, NRZ hasn’t been spared and the dilapidated condition of the railway infrastructure has contributed to the challenges facing the railway sector in Zimbabwe. The NRZ has a route length of 2 759km comprising 1 881km of mainline and 878km of branch lines.
The MDC T will ensure beyond reasonable doubt institutional reform of the NRZ to make the railway sector operate more efficiently. NRZ urgently requires recapitalization predominantly for the renewal/upgrading of plant, equipment and infrastructure in order to increase its capacity and efficiency. Lack of funding has resulted in inadequate rolling stock and locomotive power and an infrastructure incapable of sustaining the required business levels.
Our government will ensure that it acquire state of the art, modern day locomotives wagons and coaches. Unlike ZANU PF our government will not waste taxpayer funds on life expired recycled and refurbished rolling stock as we saw earlier this year on a transnet mega million dollar deal.
The NRZ needs approximately USD1.5 billion to adequately modernise the railway system in Zimbabwe. The MDC-T plans to raise this money through investors and Public Private Partnerships.Track rehabilitation and maintenance of the rail network is one of the top priorities of our government in waiting.
One of the biggest challenges facing the NRZ is the absence of a separate regulator for the railway sector which resulted in customers being at the receiving end of unfair trade practice or monopoly behavior by the NRZ.Creation of a regulatory authority to provide a stable legal and institutional framework and that will also foster competition and market mechanisms.
Technical and financial restructuring is critically important to ensure that NRZ’s responsibility for servicing debt is maintained and that stricter expenditure control is exercised to curb corruption.
Our government will establish a framework for track access charges that is consistent with the longer term objectives for seamless operations in the region, licensing of operators, safety and economic regulation.
As a labor backed party which abides to its founding principles and values we shall ensure that labor rights and labor justice shall be promoted. We promise to clear the outstanding salary arrears of more than USD70 million owed to NRZ workers in our first two years in government. The MDC T led by the capable and able President Thokozani Khupe shall restore the pride of NRZ workers and will ensure that we rehabilitate railway network to carry 8 million tonnes of traffic per annum as before to boost our economic growth. If the NRZ was once the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, surely we can resuscitate it by encouraging equity participation in the wholly owned state parastatal.
Linda Tsungirirai Masarira.
MDC-T Secretary for Information and Publicity
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