Oliver Kazunga Bulawayo Bureau
Heads are set to roll at the National Railways of Zimbabwe as Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joe Biggie Matiza, has directed the parastatal’s board to restructure management and bring in “fresh blood” expected to revamp the strategic entity.
The restructuring exercise, which is expected to be complete by October this year, is part of a broader scope of a number of initiatives the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is pursuing to turnaround its fortunes.
The ailing parastatal requires US$400 million in the short-term to recapitalise operations and about US$1,9 billion in the medium to long-term.
In an interview after touring NRZ infrastructure facilities in Bulawayo last week, Minister Matiza confirmed the imminent restructuring of NRZ management.
“I have directed the NRZ board to go ahead and restructure the management and they should move with speed to get some fresh blood who will energise and revamp the whole institution.
“They (board) will do that within a month or so and by October the whole exercise should be complete,” he said.
Minister Matiza would not be drawn into revealing the positions to be affected by the restructuring exercise.
However, this paper has it on good authority that a number of middle and senior managerial posts including that of the general manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada, will be affected.
Eng Mukwada was appointed NRZ general manager in 2016 following the death of Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai in 2013.
The NRZ board is led by Advocate Martin Dinha who was appointed last year.
Eng Mukwada has served NRZ for more than 30 years at various capacities before becoming general manager.
So far, the railways firm is seeking a strategic partner to recapitalise operations after last year Government cancelled a US$400 million deal that NRZ and the Diaspora Infrastructural Development Group/Transnet consortium had entered into.
As part of the interim solution to NRZ challenges, the country’s railway company in 2018 leased 13 locomotives and 200 wagons from Transnet, a rail utility of South Africa. Last year, NRZ and Union Wagons of Russia signed a US$10 million locomotive and wagons deal as part of an initiative to bring a new lease of life to the county’s entity.
Among others, NRZ operational efficiency and capacity has largely been affected by impropriety, maladministration and the poor macro-economic environment Zimbabwe was reeling under because of the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by the West in 2000 after embarking on the successful Land Reform programme.
Minister Matiza said despite the adverse economic conditions Zimbabwe is going through, NRZ still has potential to be turned around and restored to its former glory.
“There is potential for business for NRZ and thus l have also directed the institution to look at engaging local players (business and industry) to bring business at NRZ.
“And by the end of next year, we should be talking of fruitful engagements with some of the local players.
“There are commodities which are currently being transported by road such as coal and platinum, coal and NRZ can leverage on all these, there is potential for NRZ to grow,” he said.
Last year, NRZ moved 2,8 tonnes of freight against a target of 4,2 million.
At its peak in the 1990s, the rail entity moved 14,4 million tonnes against an installed capacity of 18 million tonnes annually.
The demise of NRZ has crippled viability of several downstream companies across the country.