Zambia: Fuel Shortage Stops Tazara Cargo Trains

TANZANIA Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) cargo trains have not been moving since last month due to shortage of fuel.

Workers Union of TAZARA acting general secretary Josam Nkhoma confirmed in an interview yesterday that cargo movement had been suspended, leaving only passenger trains operating between Kapiri Mposhi and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

He said the company had been failing to raise 150, 000 litres of fuel required to run both the cargo and passenger train services.

"The company is only able to raise about 10,000 litres which is only enough for two locomotives instead of the 150,000 litres needed to cater for all the locomotives.

"Ideally, a transporting company should not run out of fuel but this is not the case with TAZARA," he said.

TAZARA managing director Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika admitted in a separate interview that the company had continued to face challenges in meeting operational expenditures, including payments for fuel and salaries.

Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika also said the grievances of employees over delayed salary payments were genuine.

He, however, indicated that the matter was of utmost concern to management and shareholding governments.

"Although difficulties in payments for fuel and salaries are related to shortcomings in train movements, it should be recognised that train movements themselves are caused by shortcomings in the maintenance of locomotives, wagons and other essential plant and machinery items," he said.

He said all of the factors were in a cycle, revolving around long-standing undercapitalisation and inadequate working capital.

"In addition, and not of little significance, we are challenged to undertake the difficult task of improving our work culture and building a greater team spirit of working together," he said.

Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika said two trains with 30 wagons of copper left Kapiri Mposhi on Wednesday night for Dar-es-Salaam.

"Right now we are pushing for the delivery of the over 76 wagons on the railway moving with nearly 4,000 tonnes of fertiliser that is critically awaited in Zambia.

"We are pushing for a further 2,000 metric tonnes to have its documentation and clearance requirements completed so that it too may be dispatched from Dar-es-Salaam for Zambia.

"At the same time we have been moving cement from Mbeya to Kasama for contractors building roads in Northern and Muchinga provinces, as well as maize from Kasama to Lusaka," he said.

On salaries, Mr Mbikusita-Lewanika said that all the revenue being received was being directed towards payment of salaries and fuel.

He said the workers had begun to receive their October salaries in both Tanzania and Zambia.

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