Fort Concrete to speed NRZ revival 

Source: Fort Concrete to speed NRZ revival | The Herald August 21, 2018

Africa Moyo recently in GWERU
GOVERNMENT says the envisaged $10 million recapitalisation of Fort Concrete in a joint venture deal between Aveng Infraset of South Africa and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), will speed up the revival of the National Railways of Zimbabwe and create thousands of jobs given the company’s inter-linkages with other critical sectors of the economy.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo said this last Friday after touring Fort Concrete’s operations in Gweru in the company of both Aveng and DIDG officials.

Fort Concrete, a Gweru-based concrete products manufacturer mainly for railway sleepers and culverts, is seen as central to the revival of NRZ particularly in terms of railway infrastructure rehabilitation.

This motivated DIDG to partner Aveng Infraset to capacitate the company so as to minimise pressure on foreign currency, if the railway sleepers were to imported.

DIDG and Transnet of South Africa, won the tender to recapitalise NRZ to the tune of $400 million.

Dr Gumbo told journalists after his tour of Fort Concrete that the resuscitation of the company was a major flip to Government efforts to revive NRZ and create jobs, in tandem with ZANU-PF’s July 30 harmonised elections manifesto, through reviving mothballed operations and attracting new investment into the country.

“What is happening here is very exciting and quite important for Zimbabwe.

“We are here to witness the implementation of the agreement between DIDG/Transnet and NRZ whereby this company, Fort Concrete, is now producing sleepers for the railways; which is a very important component on the recapitalisation of NRZ,” said Dr Gumbo.

“I am excited to see that when this plant gets fully utilised, then we can be sure that in very short space of time, we can be able to recapitalise the NRZ to make sure that it operates to its full capacity, which is what everybody is looking at.

“As we went around, I was informed that there are lot of activities down the line that actually talk to the improvement  of the industry in the country like some of the components which are used here, they require the resuscitation of Ziscosteel which is very important.”

The 50:50 partnership between DIDG and Aveng Infraset, a JSE-listed firm which constructed FNB and Orlando stadiums in South Africa, will see $3 million being invested in the next three months to begin the modernisation of Fort Concrete.

This will see about 160 jobs being created at the company in the near future while NRZ would also employ more people to move the products, said Dr Gumbo.

Apart from producing railway sleepers, Fort Concrete makes 120 other products including culverts and flyovers.

Dr Gumbo said the Department of Roads, which is housed in his ministry, would require some of the products to rehabilitate the country’s road network.

The production of railway sleepers requires hardened steel wire, implying that Zisco and Lancashire Steel would have to be revived too, to ensure the ready availability of raw materials to avoid imports.

Zisco has since gotten an investor, R & F Properties of China which plans to invest up to $2 billion at the peak of the project.

Said Dr Gumbo: “So it’s really a lot of work that is going to be created by the coming up of this plant in Gweru. Elections are over, this is now the implementation period.

“And as it (Zimbabwe) opens up for business, it also means that we are creating a lot of employment as the President did allude to during our election time, it was not a gimmick, this is what is happening.”

Aveng Infraset general manager and director for international operations Mr Kobus Burger said they were excited to be back in Zimbabwe after a 10-years hiatus since the hyperinflation era.

Mr Burger said they did not sell Fort Concrete as they “knew Zimbabwe would recover”.

Fort Concrete has eight production lines, each producing 148 sleepers but only two are currently operational. This has seen the workforce being trimmed to 28 from a peak of 160.

At its peak, the company would produce 800 railway sleepers per day.