CHINA Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group (CTCE), one of the world’s largest railroad infrastructure construction firms, has proposed a $2,5 billion railway project straddling at least three southern African countries, official documents reveal.
This also comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been looking at ways of deepening economic relations between Beijing and Harare.
The new head of State has equally been desperate to see to it that various “mega deals” signed by his predecessor have actually come to fruition.
In a March 20, 2018 letter to Transport minister Joram Gumbo and presidential advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa, CTCE said it was interested in building a railway line linking Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in collaboration with a local business solutions provider Global Power Bridge International (GPBI) and the Zimbabwean government.
“We have been working closely with Global Power Bridge International Ltd… to establish the foundation for the subject railways project… and are ready to initiate the project,” Gang Shao, the company’s vice president, said in the letter also copied to New Century Energy International Limited’s Jin Hao.
“Please advise the necessary proceedings… for us to properly implement and follow-through to successfully materialise this project. We would appreciate your full support and co-operation… to further expand both our countries’ trade agendas,” he added.
The 1 700 kilometre long railway line, which is expected to impact on the lives of two million-plus people, will link Kafue in southern Zambia, Mashonaland West’s Lions Den and Harare as well as Nampula near Mozambique’s north-eastern coast.
The bid papers also say the railway deal will generate in excess of $36 million and move 250 000 people across the region per year.
According to the proposal, the trans-Zambezi project is one of the five other ventures earmarked for Zimbabwe by CTCE.
These include a $500 million soyabean production project in Binga, a Harare to Chitungwiza 40 kilometre-railway line, water and sewer reticulation infrastructure developments in Ruwa, and a $40 million shopping mall in the same town.
While the Chinese government has reportedly flagged the freight and wagons venture as a “priority project”, the Asian behemoth is foreseeing a scenario where it will use, if not exploit, the rail concession to export an estimated two million tonnes of soya beans from Zimbabwe to the Mozambican coast enroute to China.
“According to the World Bank, the cost of this monorail… is $1,5 million per kilometre (and) as part of the eco-economic development plan, we look forward to exporting soya beans to the Asian market,” CTCE proposal says, adding it had confirmed orders with a Chinese importer and there was serious scope for expansion in the future.
However, the Fidelis Mukonori-chaired local consortium and partner GPBI, fears there could be underhand attempts or maneouvres to elbow it out of the lucrative deal.
This week, a company representative told The Financial Gazette that some people were trying to “muddle and complicate their pioneering concept, and investment idea” — under the guise of heeding Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra — and by bringing in counter proposals.
“We were surprised to learn that CTCE had sent a British investor Richard Heygate to discuss… the same projects that we have been discussing with the Chinese company,” GPBI chief executive and president Knowledge Kadzura said.
His statements come in the wake of reports in a local weekly that the highly-regarded global businessman had said his group or consortium wanted “to introduce metro trains between Harare and Chitungwiza and prospects were that the project would become a reality soon”.
While Heygate and company were not reachable for comment this week, Kadzura say his team “was steaming ahead with its plans and working arrangement or cooperation with CTCE, and which would culminate in the signing a memorandum of understanding with the Asian-based railway giant”.