By Daniel Chigundu
PARLIAMENTARY Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development says the government should put a law that will ban the transportation of bulk goods by road as a way of helping revive crumbling National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
Owing to various operational challenges bedevilling NRZ, most companies have preferred to move their goods via the road which is reliable and this has resulted in figures at the parastatal plummeting.
Giving recommendations from the committee report, chairperson Honourable Dextor Nduna said bulk goods should be ring-fenced to rail.
“The parent Ministry should expedite the enactment of legislation banning the transportation of chrome ore, among other bulk goods, using road transport and ring-fence traffic to rail,” he said.
Although NRZ remains a key strategic entity in domestic resource mobilisation, employment creation, national development and the revival of the Zimbabwean economy, the parastatal requires a huge capital injection to return it to its former glory or to at least operating more efficiently.
According to the committee report, out of a fleet size of 166 locomotives, only 60 patently unreliable locomotives are operational and the average age of the NRZ locomotives is between 33 and 50 years whereas a locomotive has a useful lifespan of only 25 years.
Out of a total of 7153 wagons, 3641 have been decommissioned for various defects, leaving only 3512 in service; out of a fleet of 283 passenger coaches, only 108 are in use and these are in a deplorable state.
The Chegutu West legislator added that “255 kilometres of the 2760 kilometres of rail network are under speed restrictions to the extent that a train has to slow down to a speed of 10 kilometres per hour in these areas causing inordinate delays in transportation of commercial and industrial goods.
“The Centralised Train Control System (CTC) has been rendered dysfunctional due in part to vandalism. This entails that there is little control over trains from the given control position,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Transport Committee also revealed that the parastatal’s debt has since ballooned to over US$176 million with employees owed over US$90 million in unpaid salaries over many years.
NRZ is just one of the many government-owned companies that are struggling and have been making losses to the extent that the former President Robert Mugabe had said his government was looking at getting rid of some of them.
Most government institutions in Zimbabwe are not only perennial loss-making entities but are also saddled with huge debt overhang which has seen government assuming some of them in a bid to make them attractive to investors.