Government is set to unveil a policy plan to attract investors for the troubled National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) in the next two weeks, as it continues efforts to revive what was once Africa’s strategic railway network.
According to the Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Engineer Biggie Matiza, the policy would make it easier for investors to come in, access their funds and start their operations to revive the parastatal.
Addressing the press after touring NRZ infrastructure and workshops in Bulawayo, Thursday, the minister said under the ‘new dispensation’, the government had certain values and programmes it wanted to implement, and one of those is revamping and turning around the railways.
“As government we were looking at policy to enable investors to come and invest, to attract them, make it easier for them to access their funds and operate so forth. We will unveil this after two weeks so that investors come and ride on that so we progress. I as minister of transport want to see trains moving to various routes. We can do it and we don’t have time for moving slow,” he said.
The minister was in the company of the parastatal`s newly-appointed board chairman, Advocate Martin Dinha, the general manager, Engineer Lewis Mukwada and senior management.
“What we have in plan and discussing with the board, is we are trying to reshape our minds to see how we can revamp this institution. We want to look at revamping of the track and making sure it works properly. Our rail infrastructure is key to our development access to pit to port, rails, access to agriculture, passengers and so on,” the minister said.
He added that revamping NRZ would allow for interconnectivity in the region so that trade begins to flow through Zimbabwe.
“Our country is strategically located in the SADC region and there is need to make sure we revamp this institution.”
Matiza added that the ministry had not started looking for investors but was touching up on the policy plan for NRZ.
“We were looking at two issues before we really go further and these issues have to do with policy relating to NRZ, looking at operations and structuring them so they bring appetite to investors. I’ve presented to cabinet and in the next coming weeks, will finalise it. This is what we are looking at to bring investors on a Private Public Partnership with government to revamp our rail system,” he claimed.
On the US$400 million recapitalisation deal with the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) /Transnet consortium, that won a tender to rehabilitate NRZ but seems to have failed to take off, Matiza said the agreement had gone through a framework agreement but government removed the exclusivity clause after the investors failed to provide proof of funding within 12 months.
“They were supposed to show that they have money but time elapsed before they did and that’s why we opted to block it as per agreement but the South African ambassador came with the Transnet Board and asked us to extend time so they could bring the information we needed.
“We agreed but said as government we said we will remove the exclusivity clause because they stayed for a long time without bringing the relevant information they should have compiled so the exclusivity clause had become impractical yet they said they would meet demand within a short period of time,” he explained.
The minister said when their extension lapses and DIDG fails to bring the required information their agreement will end by way of operations unless they bring proof of payment.
“Because all this needs time and many years have passed by so we said bring the proof that you have been using all along but that money hasn’t come. We want things that work for NRZ so those who can do it – we should let them do it but up to now no one has come,” Matiza summed.