HARARE - Railway workers unions have pleaded with parliamentarians to push for a forensic audit of the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) amid allegations of massive corruption, bloated management and conflict of interest.
Appearing before a parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development yesterday, presidents of three railway unions claimed efforts to re-capitalise the NRZ will never yield results until the issues they raised were dealt with.
Kamurai Moyo, president of the Amalgamated Railway Workers Union, said the company has become unviably top-heavy.
“In 1999, we had one general manager and three assistant general managers and we could manage to move a sizeable tonnage — 18 million,” Moyo told the Dexter Nduna-led committee.
“Currently, we have got a general manager with five directors. We don’t want to talk about other hidden directors, those who are on secondment from government as a shareholder. Technically, it’s like the railways has got plus or minus 10 directors but we are moving only three million.”
Moyo said the staff complement has gone down from 12 000 to around 6 000 employees. Despite slashing staff by 50 percent, the parastatal has been failing to meet salary obligations for the past 13 months, translating to about $68 million in arrears.
Moyo alleged that some top NRZ managers were also sitting on the board of a competitor, Beitbridge Bulawayo Railway (BBR).
“We have BBR as a competitor to NRZ but we got a situation where top managers sit in the board of directors of BBR, the (acting) GM (general manager Lewis Mukwada) included,” he said.
“You sit there, you are supposed to make strategic decisions then you come to the railways, what are you going to say except securing your own future. As we talk, we have one of the directors who recently retired from the railways, immediately; he was snatched by BBR as director operations, same capacity he served.”
BBR is under the New Limpopo Projects Investments Limited (NLPI), a Mauritius-registered company that specialises in private sector investments using the build-operate-transfer (Bot) concept. NLPI is behind the railway operations in Zimbabwe and Zambia that form a rail link between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Shadreck Mutakura, president of Railways Artisans Union, said most partnerships signed have left the NRZ in a worse situation by ring-fencing all prior cash-cows.
“NRZ owns a lot of tanks and as we speak we have a number of companies that have entered into PPPS (public private partnerships) with NRZ,” Mutakura said.
“There are a lot of shady deals in the procurement of fuel and spare parts. A lot of parts are procured knowing very well they aren’t going to be used.”
Nduna pledged his committee’s commitment to push for a fresh audit.
The unions also called for the appointment of a substantive and competitive general manager. The post was left vacant after the death of Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai two years ago.