Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
DIASPORA Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) has acquired a 50 percent stake of the country’s sole manufacturer of rail slippers Fort Concrete and will inject $3 million into the Gweru-based company to start manufacturing the slippers for the rail track rehabilitation project.
DIDG won the $400 million tender to recapitalise and operate the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) together with Transnet of South Africa.
DIDG executive chairman Mr Donovan Chimhandamba said the investment company has acquired half of the stake of Fort Concrete as part of its NRZ revitalisation strategy which includes rail track rehabilitation.
“This is part of the DIDG strategy. For us to be able to get NRZ up and running we need to capacitate the value chain industries that provide critical equipment and services to the parastatal, the NRZ project itself one of the key areas is track rehabilitation. On track rehabilitation the biggest component is the provision of slippers. So we went around in the region and we discovered that there was a company in Gweru which used to supply slippers to NRZ and the company is Fort Concrete.
The company was owned by Aveng Infraset. We are concluding a transaction where we will have 50 percent stake in the company.
Our intention is to get the railway slipper manufacturing plant up and running ahead of the track rehabilitation programme we have with the RBZ,” he said.
Mr Chimhandamba said the company intends to set up a new and modern plant at Fort Concrete and increasing its production capacity to about 880 slippers a day.
“We are looking at spending more than $3 million on the plant revitalisation exercise. We are bringing in new equipment. We are bringing in a batch mixing plant because the one which is there is obsolete. We are going to bring in modernised equipment.
As we speak we are producing 300 slippers a day. We have an order of 10 000 slippers from NRZ. But for the track rehabilitation project, we need about one million slippers,” he said.
The revival of Fort Concrete, which also produces concrete material for the construction of roads, bridges dams, will have far reaching implications on the construction industry as well as the Southern African Region in terms of rail network.
The company was handed over to the employees by the owners, Aveng Infraset, 10 years ago after business dwindled due to economic challenges. Fort Concrete used to employ 160 people but has since downsized its workforce to about 30.