TANZANIA and Zambia have agreed to decentralise and transform the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) operations by making it operate 'commercially and profitably.'
The two partner states will now change the modality of their ownership in the railway, with the view of increasing the authority's profitability and self-reliance.
The governments of Tanzania, Zambia and China built the railway to rescue the landlocked Zambia's economy from dependence on Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white minority governments.
It provided the only route for bulk trade from Zambia's Copperbelt to reach the sea without having to transit white-ruled territories.
The Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that under the new modality, each country could run its business, saying the new modality allows a partner state to run trains without consulting another.
"Previously, we had a passenger train with one route from Dar es Salaam to Zambia but the new modality allows each country to run passenger trains within its borders," said the minister while briefing reporters on deliberations reached by transport ministers of the two countries in a meeting in Zambia two weeks ago.
Dr Mwakyembe said the meeting, which was also attended by financial affairs and industry ministers of the two countries had decided that both countries should clear the salary arrears of the Tazara staff in June.
"We have earmarked 2.8 million US dollars to clear salary arrears of the Tazara staff in the past month," he said. He also pointed out that the two ministers would convene another meeting next month in the country whereby they will discuss recommendations of a team of experts from China to carry out feasibility study on challenges facing Tazara.
"The team of experts from China has already completed the study and they have submitted the recommendations on how best to run the railway," he said.
A team of 140 Chinese experts was conducting a close investigation to establish the problems that are afflicting Tazara, threatening its very existence, the upshot being to improve the railway line and its running authority.
Tazara, also known as the Uhuru Railway, is a key transporter of cargo, mostly copper and other minerals from Zambia mines to Dar es Salaam for export to overseas markets.
It also transports passengers. Tazara is the gateway to eastern and Southern African business markets. It covers both SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).