THE Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) requires an immediate panacea to resuscitate operations of this vital enterprise which is currently lying in comatose.
Time and again workers have withdrawn their labour to push for improved operations of the jointly-owned project, which hitherto was a marvel in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and beyond.
Sadly, the railway firm can hardly meet its operational costs and staff emoluments, rendering the entire project insolvent. It has slipped into a comatose.
China provided $500 million in the early 70s for the construction of the massive infrastructure and provided expertise to roll out the rail line and attendant structures that today still stand begging for full utilisation.
The Asian giant went ahead with the project after then Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda was snubbed by the West for lobbying what they thought was a pipedream.
Tazara truly came to fruition and provided an alternative route at the time the southern African region was embroiled in liberation wars.
The project was not only conceived as an alternative route in the face of hostilities in the then Southern Rhodesia under Ian Douglas Smith and South Africa under the racist regime, but as future masterplan to haul minerals and other products to the port of Dar-es-salaam.
It would therefore be counterproductive and a waste of resources to leave Tazara teetering on the brink of collapse.
The firm has been choked with a huge debt stock in unremitted statutory contributions, outstanding payments to suppliers and goods and services, a huge and unsustainable wage bill.
There are about 3,000 workers from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar-es-salaam with the Zambian side accounting for 1,200 employees.
China is ready to recapitalise the firm, but the Asian country cannot do so until a survival plan is in place as well as updated audited accounts.
Management structure and appointments must be harmonised before China or any other investor can come in to salvage the insolvent company.
This important company needs more than the mere suspension of top management employees, but requires a fresh injection of capital, rehabilitation of infrastructure and locomotives as well as wagons.
Zambia is Africa's top producer of copper and should have a reliable route and mode of transport to export the mineral in bulk.
The best mode therefore is rail transport which would also help reduce pressure on the road network.
Mining firms are yearning for a reliable railway route with security features and other modern facilities to track the movement of their minerals which are now susceptible to thefts.
The governments of Zambia and Tanzania should immediately take drastic measures to save the company from total collapse.
Management and the board have no capacity to pull the company out of the quagmire!
One option is to invite an equity partner, of course, after cleaning up the balance sheet.
Secondly, the two governments can agree to concession - to give a contractual right of business to a certain entity over a given period of time.
The two governments can also agree to mobilise resources and continue with the tripartite arrangement.
Should this route be taken, a complete management overhaul will have to be undertaken.
Save Tazara now!