The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has been topical over the past few years. Lots have been said about the NRZ; some are true, and some are false. Interestingly, there are even some people in Zimbabwe who think NRZ no longer works or exists. Yet the NRZ is very much alive and functioning. Of course, it has been riddled with challenges but has steadily picked itself up. Some challenges affecting the NRZ are lack of due maintenance, difficulty accessing spare parts, and dilapidated infrastructure and equipment. Corruption and gross mismanagement have been at the heart of NRZ’s challenges. We will look at a recent positive development. Today, we shall be looking at a recent positive development happening at the NRZ. This regards the NRZ securing some bulk fuel transportation deals.

NRZ Now Geared To Do Bulk Fuel Transportation

The NRZ recently indicated that it is now geared toward bulk fuel transportation. This excellent development speaks to how NRZ is finding its footing again. The importance of the NRZ to the Zimbabwean economy cannot be underscored enough. The NRZ is Zimbabwe’s biggest bulk transporter. This recent development is made possible by the working relationships that NRZ has formulated with local industry players. This will see NRZ transporting bulk petroleum gas and gasoline. This will see the resuscitation of NRZ’s tankers – tankers that used to be functional in years past. As of now, NRZ has already started the process of refurbishing their tankers. Here are some remarks from the NRZ Public Relations Manager:

NRZ Public Relations Manager Remarks

Speaking with regards to this development, Mr Andrew Kunambura, NRZ Public Relations Manager, said the following:

As an organisation, we have formed Public Partnerships with various players in the mining and fuel industries. One of these collaborations involves our work with Zim-Gas. As you are aware, Zim-Gas is a large importer of petroleum gas. They ship much of this gas through the ports of Maputo and Beira. We agreed that to increase capacity, we needed to refurbish our fuel tankers so that they could import more gas.

We needed to expand our equipment capacity because we are a bulk good mover. We have also entered into another partnership for the refurbishment of fuel tankers. This has resulted in the refurbishment of 53 of 100 fuel tankers. We have reached 50 percent. The remainder are being renovated, and we have other comparable agreements with mining businesses.

Deputy Minister Of Transport And Infrastructural Development Remarks

Weighing on the same matter, Mr Mike Madiro, Deputy Minister Of Transport and Infrastructural Development Remarks, had the following to say:

The government’s commitment towards revamping NRZ from the highest office is beyond doubt. The objectives are to improve the rail infrastructure quality index to 68 percent by 2025 from the current 57 percent, increase freight volumes to 6.7 million tonnes per annum from the current 2.3 million tonnes, and increase passenger services. The government is eager to see the success of NRZ and hence, our emphasis to make good the NRZ vision; which is to be the dominant logistics player in the region by 2030.

Recapitalization Of NRZ

There is no doubt that NRZ needs to be effectrecapitalised. Earlier this year, it was indicated that NRZ had signed a contract with the Indian Railways Infrastructure Consultancy and Engineering Company (RITES). The contract is worth US$81.2 million, which entails the supply of rolling stock wagons. The rolling stock wagons will be diesel-electric 3000 horsepower locomotives and high-sided open ones. It is yet to be reported whether or not the contract has been set into motion. Allocation of funds was still pending approval when the news broke. Regardless, NRZ and RITES already have an active two-year funding contract, and some are looking at a recent positive development of the African Development Bank. This is for purposes of construction, engineering, and procurement.

You notice some common elements when you go through some election manifestos from the previous Zimbabwean elections. One such is a focus on reviving and enhancing rail infrastructure. This is just one of the many indicators of an appreciation of the importance of rail in economic development. That is why it is refreshing to see that some progress is being made in bringing back NRZ’s glory. It is also important to note that rail is essential for environmental sustainability. It is said that for every tonne of freight moved by rail, more than 75 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are experienced. Rail is also generally more efficient and streamlines connectivity to ports. It will be great to see more concerted efforts towards revamping the NRZ.