LEGISLATORS are advocating that bulk freight, including fuel, should be transported by the National Railways of Zimbabwe in order to assist the comatose parastatal in its turnaround strategy.
Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross (MDC-T) last week said most of Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries need millions of litres of fuel and if the NRZ could be capacitated to carry them, it would assist in its efforts to recover their long lost business.
Cross was contributing to a motion on the first report of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure on the inquiry into the turnaround strategy of the NRZ.
“The countries [the Democratic Republic of] Congo, Zambia and Malawi require about four to five million tonnes of fuel a year, and the logical port of entry is Beira, as well as that the most logical system of moving that fuel is by rail and not by road,” he said.
“If you look at the fuel traffic between here and the Congo, it amounts to 2,2 million tonnes per annum, and it travels from Beira to the Congo by road at 12 cents per tonne per kilometre, whereas the NRZ can move that at 0,4 cents and that would be a massive saving in terms of costs for the countries of the interior,” he said.
Cross said NRZ can also benefit by moving fuel from Beira to Botswana (80 000 tonnes of cargo), which could be cheaper than Botswana moving fuel from South Africa.
“Zambia’s consumption is about 160 000 tonnes per month. That is a lot of fuel. It is another 2,5 million tonnes a year for Zambia. Zambia should be moving that stuff by rail from Beira or from Maputo,” he said.
Cross said parastatals like Zesa Holdings should also begin to more to transport their 60 000 tonnes of coal per month from Hwange to their power stations by rail instead of by road to support NRZ.
“It can save two-thirds of the cost of transport if it is moved by rail. Bulk food and fertilisers can also be moved by rail,” he said.
The legislator said NRZ management is good and sound after they produced a clean audit of accounts this year, adding that they have the capacity to turn around the parastatal.
Gokwe MP, Dorothy Mangami (Zanu-PF) said there is need to also look at the welfare of NRZ workers, who have gone unpaid for several months, with their medical aid, RailMed also not doing well.
“I am advocating for finalisation of all the salaries that those employees have not been paid so that they are not demoralised in terms of carrying out their jobs,” she said.
“RailMed right now is not doing very well. There are no drugs in RailMed for those employees, who are getting half salaries.
The medical aid should be resourced so that the employees can access medical services.”