Waves of excitement are sweeping through Zimbabwean media and train enthusiasts following the delivery to Bulawayo this week of a consignment of railway stock at the long-struggling National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Social media was awash at the weekend with pictures and footage of some of the rolling stock crossing the border at Beit-Bridge from South Africa, with reports that 10 mainline locomotives, three shunting line locomotives, 200 wagons, five passenger coaches and one powerline locomotive will be commissioned at the NRZ headquarters in Bulawayo this week.
The NRZ is set to resume normal train services to Zimbabwe in June after implementation of the US$400 million recapitalisation deal sealed between government, Transnet and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Secretary Engineer George Mlilo told reporters that as part of efforts to revive NRZ, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will this week commission 200 coaches and 13 locomotives in Bulawayo.
The trains were leased from Spoornet until the Transnet-DIDG deal is fully implemented.
Eng Mlilo said: “The wagons which will be commissioned on Friday by His Excellency is a lease agreement NRZ made with Spoornet, while the long-term consortium partners are finalising their programme.
“Government wanted to revive NRZ within the 100-day plan, that’s why we are leasing the wagons. We hope this will also lessen pressure on the roads as travellers were shunning the railway system.
“We are also working on the resuscitation of the passenger train. We want to resume the original schedule where inter-city routes will be serviced regularly.”
Government has prioritised resuscitation of rail infrastructure as one of the pillars of economic revival.
According to timelines, the NRZ Debt Assumption Bill will be gazetted in March. The debt assumption plan was delivered to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last month.
This will facilitate takeover of the US$348 million NRZ owes creditors and allow new investors to start on a clean slate.
Transnet and DIDG will administer NRZ trains under a build-operate-transfer arrangement, and will assist to raise freight capacity, operate and maintain existing and new infrastructure, and generate revenue.
The parastatal is set to rake in over US$2 million revenue annually.
Bulawayo media event will provide an opportunity for DIDG to speak publicly on the project for the first time
DIDG executive director Donovan Chimhandamba told reporters that the consortium will focus, not on locomotives and wagons alone, but on other areas such as Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), agriculture, mining, engineering and construction as well as refurbishment of dams.
In transport Chimhandamba said DIDG aimed to set up a modernised and efficient transport network system in Zimbabwe that integrates with the Southern African sub-continent and serve as the capital connecting the regions cities.
DIDG is working with South Africa’s Transnet on the NRZ recapitalisation project.
“DIDG led by Chimhandamba will address the media on February 14 2018 at Holiday Inn Bulawayo. The press conference coincides with the first delivery of trains to NRZ by the DIDG-Transnet consortium and provides an opportunity for DIDG to speak publicly on the project for the first time,” read the DIDG media invite.
The DIDG which won the US$400 million National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) recapitalisation tender says it will not focus only on the transport sector but will make Zimbabwe a provider of world class domestic infrastructure in different sectors, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
A modernised transport network system in Zimbabwe that integrates with the Southern African sub-continent
DIDG is wholly owned and spearheaded by Zimbabweans living in the diaspora. Its membership is spread predominantly across South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.
On other projects he said: “DIDG will participate in the building and enhancement of Zimbabwe’s ICT infrastructure so that Zimbabwe can be a leader in the ICT space. The company also aims to improve the quality of Zimbabwe’s water supply and management. This includes building and operating dams, water treatment and production plants.”
He said his company will also have strategic partnerships with state owned enterprises.
As of last year the NRZ only had 60 operational locomotives, some as old as 50 years and owed its workers $90 million in unpaid salaries, according to a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee report. The NRZ has a fleet of 166 locomotives.
“These average between 33 and 50 years old whereas a locomotive has a useful lifespan of at most 25 years,” said the Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development in its report on the turnaround strategy for the NRZ presented to Parliament recently.
“Out of a total of 7 153 wagons, 3 641 have been decommissioned for various defects leaving only 3 512 in service; out of a fleet of 283 passenger coaches, only 108 are in use and these are deplorable state.”
At its peak the National Railways of Zimbabwe moved 18m tonnes of freight annually, but years of neglect, loss of experienced workers and undercapitalisation had reduced the parastatal’s capacity as key player in terms of commercial and industrial bulk goods transportation in the country.
At its peak, NRZ moved 18 million tonnes of freight annually. Last year, the company moved less than three million tonnes of freight and has a target of 3,7 million tonnes last year.
Comment on this report: Call/text/whatsapp: (+27) 834767918