Govt runs NRZ dry

Ngoni Chanakira

POLITICAL instead of business considerations are the major factors causing mayhem at the cash-strapped National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), insiders have revealed.



ONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>To compound matters, the recent regrouping of staff into single categories instead of the usual technical (mechanics and engineers) and administrative (messengers and clerks), has resulted in the NRZ’s wage bill skyrocketing to more than 140% of revenue collected.


The NRZ, which is operating at 40% capacity, is currently collecting less money than it is forking out daily.


Incensed by the problems bedevilling the NRZ, Minister of Transport and Communications Christopher Mushowe two weeks ago held a meeting with the board to try and thrash out problems at the parastatal. The meeting is understood to have ended in deadlock.


In his monetary policy statement for the first quarter to March 31, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono said the problems facing the NRZ were not only affecting passenger transportation but also the movement of goods within the country, as well as shipment of exports and imports. He said the situation was worsened by the fact that road transport for bulk consignments was relatively costly for producers.


Based on available business, the NRZ requires around 108 mainline locomotives (DE10 class) compared to about 60 currently available. Unavailability of locomotives has seriously impacted on the company’s ability to return foreign wagons to the owning railway administration, especially South Africa’s Spoornet.


This limitation has resulted in NRZ paying monthly interchange costs of around R6 million to Spoornet, effectively eating into the country’s limited foreign exchange resources.


Bulk deliveries such as coal, tobacco, minerals, cotton lint, sugar, maize and fuel have been directly affected by the capacity constraints at the NRZ, which has now been asked to produce a turnaround programme.

A senior NRZ official speaking on condition of anonymity told businessdigest that there was too much politics at the NRZ.


Government launched commuter trains before the 2002 presidential election amid much fanfare in Harare and Bulawayo.


The official said each commuter train was milking about $3 million from NRZ coffers.


“Each train brings in about $1 million per trip,” he said.


“We run two trains from Dzivaresekwa each morning and evening which means that we are losing more than $12 million every day from this route alone. We also run trains from Mabvuku and Luveve in Bulawayo.”


He said to worsen matters each train had a duty manager who was paid overtime whenever there was a mishap.


“Each driver and manager are collected from their homes by company vehicles every morning and this means huge fuel bills. It’s just a disaster. The trains are also very cheap – $300 – so we all know this is a political thing.”


Government has however dismissed sentiments that the move to introduce commuter trains was political, claiming it was meant to alleviate transport blues for urban workers.