The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has been forced to shut down part of its railway network due to vandalism.
Most of the country’s electrified railway network has fallen prey to thieves who target overhead copper cables used on the railway network.
The parastatal spokesperson, Fanuel Masikati, told NewsDay the electric railway network from Dabuka to Harare had been shut down due to vandalism.
“We have shut down the railway network between Dabuka and Harare due to excessive vandalism,” he said.
“People who vandalise the network mostly target the copper, which becomes a difficult situation as railway copper is not something that we can easily replace.”
Masikati said they have removed all the vandalised wires on the electrified routes and have resorted to using diesel locomotives.
“We have currently resorted to using diesel locomotives, which are an alternative, instead of electrical locomotives due to the vandalism on the railway network,” he said.
The NRZ has one functional electric locomotive out of 10 and nearly $274 million is required to re-capitalise the parastatal, which is also battling a massive debt overhang.
It is currently struggling to come up with close to $30 million for the acquisition of 14 locomotives from the China North Railway Company.
NRZ operates 2 700 kilometres of rail network, which interfaces with regional countries and has a stock of 160 locomotives and 9 000 wagons.
However, 32% of the 160 locomotives that the company had were out of service and needed to be refurbished.
In addition, he said, 46% of NRZ’s 9 000 wagons also need to be brought back on line to raise the parastatal’s capacity.
The state of affairs meant the rail carrier suffered from logistical constraints to provide an adequate service to industry.
The World Bank recently advised the NRZ to shut more than 75% of its network after deeming it dysfunctional.
The parastatal, which is beset by a host of challenges, is left with about 60 out of more than 160 locomotives.
An estimated amount of between $750 000 and $20 000 is needed to refurbish each locomotive and wagon respectively.
The grounded rolling stock, which is now over 40 years old, has outlived its lifespan, which is estimated at 25 years.
As a result, the carrying capacity of the NRZ has declined from 18 million tonnes to below 6 million tonnes annually.