NRZ operating at 11 % capacity

Chris Mahove

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is currently moving only 11 % of its freight capacity of 18 million tons per year and has not carried any inter-city passengers for the past three years.

In a report titled ‘Certain Demise of the National Railways of Zimbabwe- Response to Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development Permanent Secretary’ gleaned by this publication, NRZ workers said no immediate plans were in place to rescue the ailing rail company.

“The fact of the matter is that the NRZ was designed to move up to eighteen (18) million tons of freight: local, imports, exports and transit traffic and at least two (2) million passengers per year. To date only two (2) million tons of freight and no inter-city passengers (except for a few commuter passengers) are moving. It should be pointed out that inter-city passenger services have been discontinued over three (3) years ago and it would seem that that service may have suffered a natural death as no plans are afoot to resuscitate that service,” they said in the damning report.

They said presently, the loss-making entity was employing just about 3 500 workers out of a possible 13 000 personnel it should have, adding that there was no significant amount of equipment to replace the 9 500 employees that were laid off in what the company said was restructuring when in fact, it was a downsizing.

“Based on studies undertaken on NRZ manpower, the railways of that size and the level of technology at its disposal, the cut-off head-count of employees is some thirteen thousand (13 000) ranging from a few hundred up to twelve thousand (12 000) trains per year. Any reduction in the above should be met by replacing employees by equipment capable of taking over the equivalent work-load of the displaced employees.

“As a matter of course, restructuring is undertaken when an organization wants to increase both efficiency and capacity with a view of increasing profitability and focus of its undertaking. On the other hand, Down-Sizing is meant to reduce capacity of the organization as a result of a shrunk market place,” they said

They said the NRZ appeared to be running contrary to the 2030 Government Policy of Zimbabwe being a middle-income country with the economy being drive by mining, manufacturing, and agriculture.

The NRZ management, they claimed was seeking the downfall of rail transport in the name of restructuring when in fact, they were destroying the only railway entity in the country by way of down-sizing.

 “It should be pointed out that if the NRZ were seriously on a true restructuring agenda in view of the 2030 Government Policy of being a Middle-Income Country, such an undertaking should have been undertaken by Consultants with vast experience in the field rather than by internal personnel that are the cause of its demise,”.

The workers noted that most if not all of the people responsible for the restructuring exercise did not possess the requisite railway academic qualifications and necessary experience for undertaking restructuring of the organization.

 They said if the current trend was left to continue without serious interventions at government level, the NRZ would be moving not more than a million tons of freight by the end of 2023.

They said the Railways Board should be tasked with the formulation of a sound policy which has set out goals, time frames and spelt out objectives in operational and financial terms.

“Such goals should include operational objectives in Net Tons and the expected Return on Investment (ROI) per annum, acquisition of equipment and the values at based year prices and the market thrust. This is not only meant to provide Management with direction but also Government so that it can factor such plans in the overall economic plan of the nation,” .

The workers pointed out that at the moment, such a policy did not exist at the NRZ.

“Only three years ago, the talk was about having a Strategic Partner for the NRZ where the NRZ introduced the Transnet and DIDG Consortium as the potential Strategic Partner and in no-time the deal was not signed.

They added that other potential investors from Russia, Turkey, Dubai, Indonesia, among many others – have been snubbed, with management now calling for the purchase of new locomotives and wagons for the NRZ using Government funding.

The workers said while illegal sanctions had taken their toll on Zimbabwe, ignorance on the part of NRZ management was the major reason for its collapse.

“As a matter of course, Private Sector Investment in long term yields public sector investments came to a grinding halt by 2002 and from thereon, it has been short high returns private sector investments. The other reason for both International Financial Institutions and Private Sector not being forthcoming is the fact that no reputable consultancy study on the role and the financial requirements for the Strategic Partner have been spelt, something a judicious Board would have undertaken before running-off to seek a Strategic Partner,”

They said it was unfortunate that for some time, the NRZ Board had been made up of personnel with no railway experience, no experience in big organizations and no requisite qualifications for their job.

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