The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) says there has been a significant drop in freight movement due to the impact of Covid-19 which resulted in some companies stopping production since the first lockdown in March last year.
Last year, the parastatal moved about 2.5m tonnes of goods from 2.8m tonnes in 2019, according to NRZ’s spokesperson Nyasha Maravanyika said.
“Most of our customers, for instance chrome ore miners like ZIMASCO and others had to stop production from the first day in March last year when the President [Emmerson Mnangagwa] announced the first lockdown in 2020.These companies had to close shop up until July. So, meant that we were not transporting chrome ore as producers were not producing it,” he said.
“Covid-19 affected us just like it affected other companies but for us it was a little bit worse because we work with other companies. If other companies are not producing it means that we as the logistics player, we cannot do our work. There’s no doubt that Covid affected our operations.”
To add to its woes, Maravanyika said the NRZ did not realise much business from one of its major revenue earning initiatives, the moving of sugar cane to milling plants in the south eastern areas of the country as farmers opted for road transport in their bid to ensure that their produce reaches manufacturing plant on time before losing much value.
“It basically affected us but besides the Covid 19 lockdown we also need to acknowledge the challenges of the company. We also go back to issues of the retraction power where we were found wanting of the retraction power,” he said.
“Since then our board has been agitating the government to support the NRZ because we need at least 40 locomotives for us to break even, 300 wagons, 300 coaches for the passengers that’s mostly for community service because there isn’t much profit that comes from that.”
In 2018, NRZ received 200 wagons, seven coaches and 13 locomotives from a government proposed investor.