Zimbabwe’s failure to fix NRZ rot could derail the country’s mining ambitions, but mining companies are coming to the rescue


Zimbabwe is looking to its mining industry to lead an economic recovery, but the government’s own failure to invest in the country’s rail system is pushing those ambitions offtrack.

Because the government is not investing enough in rail, mining companies now have to pay the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to fix its broken-down locomotives and wagons to make them usable. Appearing before Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport on Monday, NRZ general manager Respina Zinyanduko laid out the rot.

All equipment has long passed its sell-by date. The last set of wagons was bought in 1992, and among the few locomotives still running are some that are 40 years old – almost twice their lifespan.

“Lack of recapitalisation in both equipment and infrastructure has affected the company’s performance, which has seen business volumes coming down from the 12 million tonnes it used to move annually in the 1990s to the current level of 2.3 million tonnes,” Zinyanduko told the MPs.

According to Zinyanduko, “other governments such as Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya and lately Zambia are funding their railway companies,” while, in Zimbabwe what little money is coming from the government is being eroded by inflation.

“In 2022, NRZ was allocated Z$2 billion which as at date of allocation was equivalent to US$20 million but now it is equivalent around to US$3 million and the money is still to be disbursed,” Zinyanduko said.

The company cannot even replace track ballast, the rocks on which rail tracks sit. This makes operating the trains dangerous.

“It is one of the major causes of derailments on our tracks,” Zinyanduko said.

Vandals and thieves have stolen railway infrastructure worth US$3.6 million in the last five years, with gold panners doing the most damage, she said.
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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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