BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is targeting to generate $125 million in revenue this year, an increase of 32% from prior year as the company seeks to leverage on service level agreements, an official has said.
Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo on Wednesday, NRZ general manager Lewis Mukwada said the parastatal was showing signs of recovery, adding that the trend would continue this year.
“In terms of revenue, in 2017 I think we were around $87 million. In 2018, we went up to $95 million. This year, we are projecting $125 million, but now it depends on how the economy behaves because if there is high inflation those figures, certainly, will change,” he said.
In terms of freight, Mukwada said last year they managed to move 3,4 million tonnes of cargo up from the 3,1 million they achieved in 2017.
At its peak in the 1990s, the company used to move about 14,4 million tonnes of freight against an installed capacity of 18 million.
In 2017, NRZ signed a deal with Zimasco and CFM of Mozambique, which saw the parastatal moving about one million tonnes of chrome annually from the Great Dyke to the ports of Beira and Maputo, along the Mozambican rail network.
The company is struggling to clear its debt amounting to about $300 million, with a third of that being workers’ outstanding salaries backdating to 2009.
“I think you have seen the staff challenges that we have experienced over the years. Some of you will recall that in 2016 we had a prolonged strike that went on for three months, where the staff downed tools because of the way we have paid salaries,” he said.
“When we moved the 12 million tonnes, we were also around 12 000 in terms of staff numbers. So for us now to reduce staff numbers, naturally what any company can do is to offer retrenchment packages to staff, but because of our cashflow challenges, we could not amass more money to offer packages.”
“We then started relying on natural attrition. As people were leaving, we would just close the posts and then only those ones that are critical are the ones that we filled up,” he said.
Using that process, Mukwada said they managed to reduce staff complement from 12 000 to the current 4 500.
Mukwada said negotiations on the $400 million recapitalisation deal with South Africa’s Transnet and a consortium of investors, the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), were ongoing.
The deal, if concluded, should see investment taking place in track rehabilitation, acquisition of locomotives, wagons and information communication technology to enable the parastatal to increase freight volumes.