Mozambique, Zim and Botswana mull tripartite rail project

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Mozambique, Zim and Botswana mull tripartite rail project 
Extending a railway line into central Botswana is part of a tripartite project between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, which also envisages the construction of a new deepwater mineral port in the far south of Mozambique. 

Freeman Razemba

Senior Reporter

MOZAMBIQUE is negotiating the upgrade of the regional railway system from Beira through Zimbabwe to Botswana with a proposed new line into central Botswana, President Filipe Nyusi has said.

Extending a railway line into central Botswana is part of a tripartite project between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, which also envisages the construction of a new deepwater mineral port in the far south of Mozambique. 

This would allow exploitation of major coal reserves in Botswana.

The development comes after Zimbabwe and Mozambique jointly started to refurbish and extend the 10km railway line that stretches from Machipanda to Mutare in May, following the upgrade by Mozambique of the line from Beira to Machipanda.

Mozambique’s Transport and Communications Minister, Mr Mateus Magala, visited Zimbabwe in January to hold bilateral meetings with Zimbabwean Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona on cooperation in infrastructure development.

His visit came after President Mnangagwa joined President Nyusi in witnessing the commissioning of the upgraded Beira-Machipanda railway line, at a cost of US$200 million, last November.

According to media reports from Mozambique, President Nyusi announced the latest developments and plans during his speech while inaugurating the doubling of the track on the Ressano-Garcia line, which links Maputo to South Africa on Monday.

“We are working with our brothers in Zimbabwe so that we can link the Machipanda line to Zimbabwe”, said President Nyusi, adding that further discussions between the three countries involved will take place “in the coming weeks”.

In an interview yesterday, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Mozambique Victor Matemadanda confirmed the development.

“Yes, the proposal has been there for some time to make the linkage. In fact, the idea is to link the region through Zimbabwe. As you know Zimbabwe and Botswana railways have been linked and worked together in the past, the same arrangement was there between Mozambique and Zimbabwe,” he said.

The Mozambique-Botswana Joint Cooperation Commission met in Maputo on Monday, and at the end of the discussions, Mozambican Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo declared that major advances had been made in bilateral cooperation.

But the main point under discussion was the projected deep water port in the southern-most Mozambican district of Matutuine. Plans for such a port have been on the drawing board for decades, since they were first mooted in the colonial period.

The proposed location of the port has shifted from Dobela to Techobanine, but the funds for its construction are not yet available.

Minister Macamo said a tripartite agreement will be signed in Maputo on Friday “to encourage the negotiations on the port of Techobanine”.

“The discussions for the implementation of the project in question are expected to be finalised, taking into account the meeting at the highest level between Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, which will take place on Wednesday (today),” she said.

The port will be linked to Botswana by a 1 700km-long railway that will also pass through Zimbabwe. The main cargo is expected to be Botswana coal.

“We have already spoken a great deal about this”, said Minister Macamo, “but no tripartite agreement on the matter has ever been signed before. This project needs a great deal of synergy and mobilisation of resources, and now the three countries are going to collaborate so that the project really does happen.”

In addition to finalising discussions on the Techobanine project, memorandums of understanding will be signed in the areas of geology, mining and metallurgy.

“The conclusion of the negotiations and other legal instruments will be signed during the visit of President Masisi to Mozambique, which will take place between July 10 and 12,” Minister Macamo said.

Speaking at the commissioning of the renovated railway line in Manica, Mozambique, in November last year, President Mnangagwa said not only will the rehabilitated 318km railway line reduce transport costs, but it will also ease congestion at Forbes Border Post in Mutare.

In January this year, the transport Ministers of Zimbabwe and Mozambique toured Forbes and Machipanda Border Posts. After the tour, Minister Magala said: “We had an opportunity to discuss and agree on major issues that we need to address in order to have efficient, modern and progressive infrastructure that facilitates trade and integration of our countries. We basically want to open borderless countries because Zimbabwe and Mozambique have a unique history.

“I am very happy that we managed to agree on what we need to do and stressed the urgency of those actions. One of them is that in the next three months, we want to see the railway line from Machipanda to Mutare operational at highest standards.

“The second thing is that we want to see the train from Beira to Harare and beyond also happening very soon.”