TRANSPORT minister Joel Biggie Matiza has claimed that the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) was supposed to take delivery of 100 wagons from Russia in January, but the consignment has been delayed by COVID-19 outbreak.
By Darlington Mwashita
Matiza made the claims in Bulawayo yesterday during the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the NRZ and Lupane State University.
The MoU was meant to enable the two institutions to work together in furthering education of local and international students.
Addressing guests at the ceremony, Matiza said NRZ expected 100 wagons from Russia in January at a cost of US$10 million, but the delivery was disturbed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
He said the Russian deal was still in progress and paperwork was still being processed.
“The Russian deal is still on the cards, it’s the process that seems to be taking long, but we have reasoned with the Russians to come and discuss with us and we will confirm if they are still interested. The issue is about raising funds, but after that, the process will be done,” Matiza said.
His claims are despite the fact that the COVID-19 outbreak started in China last December and was only declared a global pandemic in March this year, forcing several countries on the globe to lock down. In January, it was still business as usual across the globe.
Speaking on the domestic transport issue, Matiza said the COVID-19 outbreak scuttled most production works in the country, also prompting the temporary stoppage of commuter train services.
He, however, said the commuter train would always be there to service the commuting public if it becomes safe for everyone to travel.
“As you recognise that most of the production stopped because of COVID-19, the commuter train that is not cancelled is going on as soon as the lockdown eases regulations,” Matiza said, adding that the commuter train was one of the NRZ’s major businesses and could not be overlooked.
“The NRZ is in the process of formulating departments which will engage strategic partners, partnering with investors in any other sectors such as mining and these are the things we are now seized with at the moment.”
“COVID-19 has given us some time to do restructuring, to see what we can do. After receiving the report, that is when we will start working on the recapitalisation programme,” Matiza said.
“We welcome international investors, just like we welcomed the Russians and Indonesians.”
The signing ceremony was attended by NRZ top management, top ministry and several government and private sector officials.