President John Magufuli and his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu have vowed to transform the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) into business oriented and profit focused entity.
The two leaders have also resolved to work hard on increased efficiency at the Tanzania-Zambia Mafuta (TAZAMA) pipeline, directing their respective Attorney Generals (AGs) to meet immediately to look on the possibilities of making crucial and overdue amendments in all provisions that are seen as a stumbling block in the operations of the ailing railway authority.
Dr Magufuli and his guest met at State House yesterday for a closed door meeting before briefing the media, few minutes after their conversations. Mr Lungu who is expected to leave for Zambia later today, is in the country for a three-day state visit on the invitation of his host.
President Magufuli said the two Heads of State focused more on the future of the once strong but now crippled railway firm, concluding that poor management was among the critical problems bedevilling the company.
They, therefore, agreed to disband and reform TAZARA management to increase efficiency to boost business and realise the goals of the two nations' founders? the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
In the envisaged changes, the two leaders agreed to have amendments providing for recruitment of the Managing Director and his deputies from any where in the world, subject to their qualifications.
The current law is categorical that the TAZARA Director General be recruited from Zambia while his deputy should be sourced from Tanzania.During a press briefing that was beamed live by local radio and television stations, the two leaders expressed their dismay over the poor performance of TAZARA whose cargo volume has currently dwindled from 5,000,000 tones in 1976 annually to 128,000 tones.
Again, efficiency at TAZAMA pipeline has dropped from transporting 1,100,000 tonnes of oil to 600,000 per year. "We have agreed to change the way we do business at a supersonic speed by eliminating all the stumbling blocks...everytime you ask TAZARA officials over inefficiency their excuse is financial hiccups, but where did the capital that was available in 1976 go," queried Dr Magufuli.
In his remarks, Mr Lungu said it was high time politics was put aside to revamp the railway company to boost business between the two countries. He underscored the need to reduce the cost of transporting cargo that go to the southern part of Tanzania as well as those going to Zambia.
"Our major aim is to see TAZARA making super profit and enabling our countries to trade, that is why we have agreed that because many problems are within the management, we should get proper and qualified people to manage the company," he added.
He said TAZARA's excellent performance will relieve the two countries' road of the burden of hauling heavy cargo. Even as the two countries struggle to improve TAZAMA pipeline, Mr Lungu said his country was exploring more opportunities to benefit from various gas discoveries in Tanzania, saying his administration eyes the Mtwara corridor with strong central railway line.
Dr Magufuli said Zambia was leading with high volume of cargo through the Dar es Salaam Port, hinting that in 2015 alone, 1.9 million tonnes were cleared at the port amid business boom between the two countries from 89.2bn/- in 2010 to 152.2bn/- in 2015.
He assured his Zambian counterpart that Tanzania will continue improving her services in business, reducing unnecessary roadblocks from the current eight to four as well as establishing One Stop Border Post.
Earlier, President Lungu expressed his quest to see a new railway authority capable of bringing prosperity in the region. He was addressing TAZARA employees whom he visited at the firm headquarters on his second day of a three-day state visit. Flanked by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, the Zambian leader spoke after receiving a train from Zambia and seeing off another departing locomotive leaving Dar es Salaam.
The president was happy to see a female, Ms Joyce Joel driving the train from Zambia. Mr Lungu commended the Chinese partners, who have been partnering with the Tanzania and Zambian governments to ensure that the train operate, smoothly.
He hinted that TAZARA also intends to join Malawi from Eastern Zambia through Chipata. "With Zambia, Tanzania, and China, we want to see this friendship growing and what I say is what I do, in case of any failure I will issue explanations," he added.
The visiting president also toured TAZAMA pipeline where he was received by Energy and Minerals minister Professor Sospeter Mhongo. Mr Lungu's key message to TAZAMA workers was, "work hard."
He promised Zambia's continued friendship with Tanzania on the TAZAMA project. Mr Lungu continues with his visit this morning by touring Tanzania Ports Authority and Zamcargo, a Zambian Freight Company before departing for Lusaka at 11:30 a.m.