16 April 2017

Zimbabwe: NRZ Too Disgusting to Foreign Investors - Minister

Photo: Zimpapers/Herald library.
National Railways of Zimbabwe train station (file photo).

TRANSPORT Minister Joram Gumbo says the amount of mismanagement that has been directed at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) over the past years has rendered the troubled state firm unattractive to prospective investors.

Gumbo was responding to questions from legislators in the upper house during a recent sitting.

Asked if government would consider reviving the NRZ to relieve haulage trucks of the burden of transporting heavy cargo, Gumbo said it shall take a lot of time and effort to restore the railway transporter to its yesteryear glory.

"Cabinet has now given us a go ahead for us to source some funding to resuscitate our railway lines," Gumbo responded to a question by Gwabalanda Senator Agnes Sibanda.

"Regarding the resuscitation of transport, the Private Public Partnerships (PPP) or other external donors who may come and assist us. We need to look at all those ways of resuscitating the railway system.

"Unfortunately, the accounting system or the balance books of the National Railways have been so badly managed that we do not have any partner who may come into the country and gladly come into partnership with us after observing that.

"Now, we are in the process of sourcing for partners who can help us resuscitate the transport and the railway system in Zimbabwe."

Gumbo implored MPs to help government find support, financial or otherwise, for it to revive the once thriving parastatal.

Over the years, NRZ has seen its staff complement drop from 20 000 employees during its peak to 12 000 in 1990 and is now down to an idle 5 000.

The firm has witnessed recurrent job actions by employees who have gone for months without any pay.

At operational level, customers, government included, now hire haulage trucks to move grain and other heavy freight as the comatose parastatal has lost capacity to provide smooth service.

This is despite it being cheaper to use rail transporters and the apparent damage caused by heavy trucks as they ship goods using the country's road network.

Like many other state run firms, NRZ has not been spared the blight of mismanagement which has often seen President Robert Mugabe deploying retired senior soldiers to run the entities.

This has been slammed by the opposition which accuses the Zimbabwean leader of appointing unqualified loyalists to manage firms which they often run aground through incompetence.

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