Shame Makoshori, Senior Reporter
THE sustained decline of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ)’s ageing fleet has dealt a body blow to the country’s key mineral exports with latest government statistics showing that the troubled bulk goods carrier reported a massive 57 percent decline in export mineral shipments in 2007.
A report by the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zim-babwe (MMCZ) raised serious concerns about the government’s reluctance to recapitalise the state-run parastatal, warning economic turnaround could be elusive without a well functioning NRZ.
The MMCZ report dated February 3 2009 and was presented before Parliament last week said planned mineral exports through the NRZ’s network stagnated at 498 636 from an earlier projection of 1,155 760 metric tonnes (mt).
A total of 935 543 mt valued at US$947 million were sold in 2007 with high carbon ferrochrome and platinum group metals contributing over 50 percent of the export revenue.
Official statistics indicated that based on demand for the NRZ’s services in 2005, the rail operator required 108 mainline locomotives, the DE10s, compared to the 60 available then.
Government statistics showed a downward trend from NRZ’s 126 engines in 1999 to 112 in 2000, 99 in 2001, 83 in 2002 and about 60 in 2005.
The NRZ has not carried out major investment in locomotives and engines since then.
“Out of a planned movement of 1,155 760 mt of mineral exports, NRZ managed to move 498 636 mt, a 57 percent decline on the projections and a performance which was significantly lower than its 2006 ratings,” said MMCZ chief executive officer Onisimo Moyo.
“The NRZ rolling stock has continued to decline and urgent support is required for this vital institution, which is one of the key pillars for the economy’s turnaround. The price of oil went on a relentless increase. This, together with the macro-economic challenges worsened the shortage of foreign currency for public institutions like the NRZ. Consequently mov-ement of minerals to the ports was negatively affected,” Moyo’s report said.
The MMCZ’s report is a strong warning to Zimbabwe’s new administration.
With business confidence building up following the cessation of hostilities between the main political parties, projected increases in mineral output could be severely affected by logistical problems.
Moyo said restrictions limiting the quantum of stocks to be held at the port of Beira in Mozambique also affected mineral exports.
“The port authorities in Beira restricted the export of granite blocks by limiting stock, which could be held at the port at any given time to 20 000 mt. In light of this development, granite producers were encouraged to utilise the port of Maputo. The developments in Maputo were encouraging with the second ferro chrome pad having been completed during the course of the year including a new general purpose warehouse. Consequently, volumes increased but productivity remained a challenge,” the report said.