PPC Cement business gives NRZ a lifeline

PPC Cement business gives NRZ a lifeline

BULAWAYO, February 24 (The Source) – Struggling National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) says it has moved one million tonnes of freight between October 2016 and February this year following the purchase of 31 wagons from China to boost its capacity, thanks to cement maker PPC’s new plant in Harare.

The company last year purchased 31 wagons worth $2,9 million from China to replace part of its ageing fleet. Last November, PPC Cement commissioned a $85 million plant in Harare that produces 700,000 tonnes per year but engaged the NRZ to move clinker from its Colleen Bawn base near Gwanda to the Msasa operation, providing a timely boost to the ailing parastatal.

“The 31 wagons which have carrying capacity of 54 tonnes each, have increased capacity in uplifting of clinker from Colleen Bawn to Msasa, Harare. They have been dedicated to PPC which has resulted in guaranteed business every month,” said NRZ acting public relations officer, Martin Banda.

“In turn, this has seen wagons from our old fleet, initially dedicated to this business, being released to add capacity in the movement of other products,” he said.

Banda said according to their unaudited figures, from October 2016 to 15 February 2017, they moved 1,068,754 tonnes of freight.

“Of this tonnage, 830,251 tonnes were moved during the last quarter of 2016 and 238,503 tonnes were moved from January 2017 to 15 February 2017,” he said.

That means on average, the NRZ has been moving nearly 40,000 tonnes week since the start of the year.

At its peak, NRZ employed about 20,000 workers and moved 18 million tonnes of freight annually.

Last year, the company moved three million tonnes of freight and has a target of 3,7 million tonnes in 2017, according to the parastatal’s board chairman, Larry Mavima.

NRZ, the country’s sole railway transport operator, has failed to run profitably for years due to undercapitalisation and ageing rolling stock.

The parastatal has 3,500 operational wagons for moving cargo but most are ageing or in a state of disrepair.
NRZ has performed poorly in recent years, and has incurred losses of over $200 million between 2009 and 2013.

Its 2014 accounts showed that its freight unit was generating annual revenue of $91,2 million, but incurring costs of $103 million. The passenger unit had annual revenues of $3,2 million, with costs over three times more at $10,9 million.

The parastatal has said it requires $2 billion to fully recapitalise.