By Peter Chivhima
The challenges facing the National Railways of Zimbabwe are not in isolation as the company took a huge knock after the imposition of illegal sanctions by the United States and its Western allies.
The entity’s business operations were severely affected as the company relies on imports to keep its locomotives running.
For a company that used to drive the country’s economy through a well-oiled railway system, NRZ has become a pale shadow of its former self as it could not retool and import spares for its locomotives.
The illegal sanctions became an albatross which saw the NRZ failing to fulfil its national mandate of moving cargo and passengers which in the long run affected its staff complement as workers lost their source of income.
Rugare high suburb in Harare is dominated by former NRZ employees but all that is left are memories of the golden days.
“I joined the NRZ in 1960. I was in the mechanical department servicing locomotives. In terms of welfare, we were well-catered for. The NRZ used to give us accommodation, free electricity and water, so everything was good. Also, during that period, we used to get free tickets to travel wherever we wanted to go,” a former employee told the ZBC News.
Another said, “The National Railways of Zimbabwe was the one responsible for maintaining roads here in Rugare. Also, they used to send people to come here and check if everything was in order.”
The impact of the illegal embargo on NRZ is far-reaching and has become a humanitarian issue as the young can testify.
“We used to go to school for free here in Rugare, so for us, we still cherish those days when our parents used to work for the National Railways of Zimbabwe,” a child of a former NRZ employee commented.
No one can best describe the situation that NRZ finds itself in than board chairperson, Advocate Martin Dinha.
“Sanctions are real. Americans and their allies have imposed embargoes on our country. So, as National Railways of Zimbabwe, we have been hit hard by economic embargoes. As you are aware, the railway plays a critical role in economic development through the transportation of goods globally. The payment system is controlled by Americans through the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so, when we want payments, we are failing to gain access due to sanctions. Also, we have some locomotives we bought in America before the sanctions, so, when we want to purchase the parts, we are told that Zimbabwe is under sanctions. As an entity, we have lost a lot of billions through sanctions.”
However, it is not all doom and gloom as the Second Republic is putting in place measures to resuscitate the state entity after the government entered into recapitalisation agreements with countries such as Russia, Turkey and India.
Statistics from Treasury reveal that Zimbabwe has lost business worth more than US$40 billion in the past two decades due to the illegal economic embargo hence the SADC anti-sanctions day on the 25th of October is yet another opportunity to amplify the call for the lifting of the embargo.