THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has dismissed media reports suggesting that some of the parastatal’s top managers were sabotaging the US$400 million recapitalisation project to save their jobs.
NRZ and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG)/Transnet consortium are finalising talks on the US$400 million deal, signed in 2017, aimed at recapitalising and rehabilitating railways infrastructure.
As financial closure of the deal is yet to be reached, NRZ and Transnet last year signed an interim arrangement to capacitate the parastatal’s operations before the US$400 million deal comes on board.
Of late, some sections of the media reported that some top managers at NRZ were trampling on and changing through the back door terms and conditions of the recapitalisation deal with South Africa’s railways utility Transnet and DIDG.
The media reports claim that the move by management at NRZ was meant to scuttle the US$400 million project and save their jobs, and other interests. Responding to these, NRZ public relations manager Mr Nyasha Maravanyika said the whole narrative was false.
“Concerning recent media reports that some of the NRZ senior managers are sabotaging the $400 million deal, it is not true.
“What is clear is that people do not understand what is happening. First of all, it is vital to note that the major shareholder for NRZ is Government and there is no way a manager or managers at NRZ can stop what the Government wants,” he said.
“If the Government wants the deal to prevail, no one at NRZ can stop it. Even if the Government has got its concerns, the buck starts and stops with the Government because it is the major shareholder. So, in this case, NRZ managers are not critical in terms of influencing the deal not to be done.”
Reports had alleged that documents from local sources show that the exclusivity clause was removed from the framework agreement on the advice of the legal advisors, Dube, Manikai & Hwacha, transaction advisors Deloitte & Touche Zimbabwe as well as NRZ managers.
It was further claimed that the legal advisors had recommended in their update report on the deal that “any extension should exclude the exclusivity undertaking in the expired framework agreement”.
“The issue of exclusivity clause has got nothing to do with the main deal and it was recommended by Government as a major shareholder for NRZ,” said Maravanyika.
He refuted claims that his organisation was flighting tenders and parcelling out various parts of the recapitalisation project to their preferred companies on terms that violate the original agreement.
Mr Maravanyika said NRZ as an entity or a partner in the recapitalisation project was there to avail itself to the consortium showing the technical and human resources expertise, among others. This, he said, should complement the deal to come through.
“We also need to understand the framework agreement is an interim solution, where DIDG/Transnet is supposed to give NRZ equipment to capacity NRZ in the mean time whilst negotiations for the recapitalisation project are going through,” he said.
Under the framework agreement, NRZ is leasing 13 locomotives, 200 wagons and 34 passenger coaches from Transnet as an interim solution to its resource gaps.
On other players wanting to assist NRZ with machinery outside the US$400 million project, the parastatal’s spokesperson said their efforts would be welcome as that will offer a complementary role to the project without necessarily hijacking or scuttling the DIDG/Transnet deal.
“Suppose we have someone saying that he or she wants to support NRZ with equipment, that equipment is used even when the deal materialises, it’s not taken away.
“So the consortium still has exclusivity that no one is coming in because the consortium went through the tender process, as well as the procedures that are followed in Zimbabwe even under PRAZ (Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mr Maravanyika said it was also important to understand that the interim solution was meant to capacitate NRZ operations.
He said the repatriation of some of the NRZ leased equipment to Transnet was meant to facilitate repairs and not that the assets were being returned for good.
“It was technical and tactical for NRZ to ask Transnet to repair some of the leased equipment so that we are fully fledged when our busy season is before us. In terms of NRZ returning the equipment, it is again not true.
“NRZ wants the equipment to be repaired because the equipment is leased from Transnet and we requested Transnet to repair the locomotives after which this should aid us when we go into our busy season where we have sugar being ferried in the South Eastern Lowveld of Zimbabwe or Chiredzi,” he said.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joe Biggie Matiza could not be reached for comment.