BY Nkululeko Sibanda
GOVERNMENT has given the underfire Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) a new lifeline after it extended a six-month moratorium to prove its financial capacity to revive the ailing National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), failure of which the project would be handed over to other investors.
The group had indicated it would finance the revival of the NRZ by injecting about $400 million towards recapitalisation of the railway company, but has yet to
deliver on its promise.
Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joel Biggie Matiza recently announced that government had revoked the exclusivity clause in the DIDG/
Transnet/NRZ deal to allow other interested investors to pursue the deal.
While addressing Parliament, Matiza indicated there were other interested parties keen to take over from DIDG in the event it failed to get the deal off the ground.
The deal has been on the negotiating table for some time now, with officials insisting the logjam was necessitated by the need to verify claims that the
diaspora group did not have the funds it purported to for the NRZ deal.
Addressing captains of industry at the ongoing Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress in Victoria Falls on Thursday, NRZ board
chairperson Martin Dinha said there had been a change in the circumstances.
“The position with regard to the NRZ/DIDG deal, according to Cabinet, is that DIDG have been given another six months to show government the colour of the money they intend to invest in the NRZ,” Dinha said.
“The government has always insisted that it wants DIDG to show proof that it, indeed, has the money and DIDG have been given a further six months to do just
that,” he added.
Dinha told the delegates that it was high time the NRZ rose from comatose that it is in and play its role of facilitating traffic and transport of goods within
the Sadc region.
The NRZ is regarded as the major link in the southern African region.
“The issue of the NRZ is, indeed, a big issue and not a small one that can just be sorted as simple as that. The NRZ has been on a decline in the recent years.
“This is a case of serious mismanagement of the affairs of the NRZ. Corruption has also affected the parastatal and it is high time that these things are dealt
with,” Dinha said.
According to statistics provided by Dinha, the railway company’s capacity to move goods and passengers had drastically dropped from around 18 million tonnes
per year at the attainment of independence in 1980 to the current 2,7 million tonnes a year.
“When we attained independence, the NRZ used to contribute about 11% of revenue to the tax authorities, in this case, that is the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.
But now, the NRZ is contributing less than 1% because of the collapse of the company and its inability to move goods.
“The company used to employ about 8 000 employees, but the situation has forced us to reduce these to about 4 000 employees. Like I indicated, the NRZ is in
constant decline and over time, we have, as a result of all these issues, lost business,” he added.