Transport services of the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) between Dar es Salaam and Tunduma are expected to resume shortly, Tanzania Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda has assured the National Assembly.
The premier was reacting to a question by Susan Kiwanga (Special Seats, Chadema) who wanted to know the time-frame when the government will settle Tazara workers’ salaries and resume train services.
The MP said that due to the recent floods most transport infrastructures have been disrupted and Tazara was the only option for many people in Kilombero and Ulanga districts.
She said the Tazara workers’ strike adds more burden to poor people in Morogoro, who depend on that railway for transportation.
The premier said that the government has been working on the matter and in a few days will be resolved and Tazara services will be resumed.
“We are working on the crisis and very soon transport services will be resumed,” the premier told the House, without going into details.
He called on the public to remain calm at a time when the government is working on the crisis of Tazara suspension of freight and passenger operations early this week following the strike that started on Monday.
Tazara workers withdrew their labour, demanding unpaid salaries for February, in some cases, and for March and April 2014.
Normal operations were on between Nakonde and New Kapiri-Mposhi on the Zambian side.
In September last year more than 1000 Tanzania workers downed tools, bringing about the loss of more than $1.4 million from the disruption. Later the government made payments totaling more than $6 million.
Menwhile the Tazara management has asked shareholders to re-capitalize the authority so as to revive operations.
Speaking to journalists yesterday in Dar es Salaam, Tazara public relations officer for this side of the railway company, Regina Tarimo said that railway transport was crucial so shareholders are requested to empower the authority so as to revive and continue with its daily operations.
“The problem of Tazara workers is currently being handled by the responsible authority and the Ministry of Transport as well is working upon the strike so that workers could be back and resume their work.”
“Once the re-capitalization is done workers will obtain their salaries from daily operations on required time,” she declared, emphasizing that shareholders are required to work hard on re-capitalizing Tazara. Reviving operations urgently is vital so that the authority does not continue losing money.
For his part, Tanzania Rail Workers Union (TRAWU) chairman Yusuph Mandai said that they will continue with the strike until they are paid salary backlogs.
“We will not be back in work without being paid our salaries because it is difficult to work while you are hungry,” he said, adding that in order for the government to operate well the authority it is supposed to run by itself for sustainable development.
Meanwhile, in a bid to improve its services, Tazara has ordered 18 new passenger coaches and spare parts from China valued USD 9.52 million.
Tazara Acting Managing Director Eng. Ronald Phiri said this week that the future of Tazara lay in recapitalization efforts as available equipment and infrastructure had depreciated to very low levels, needing urgent and total replacement.
We have reached a stage where fresh injection of capital is critical and necessary for the refurbishment of aged equipment and infrastructure. This includes the fleet of passenger coaches which have been subjected to extreme strain from overuse and limited maintenance,” he further stated.
Apart from 18 coaches, the authority is planning to supply four new locomotives, two shunting locomotives, various rescue and lifting equipment, track trolleys, assorted spare parts and 30,000 pieces of wooden sleepers as well as training of staff in various railway skills, and attachment of Chinese railway experts to Tazara over a specified period.
Tazara has been receiving regular financial support from the Chinese government through protocols of economic and technical co-operation.
Recently on April 22, Tazara and Impala Warehousing and Logistics International BV signed a deal for the latter to have track access and operate their own trains on the authority’s line, it said in a statement.
In order to structure the partnership proposal, Impala contracted Vecturis of Belgium as the railway operator who immediately embarked on a technical and operational due diligence exercise aimed at having a perfect understanding of the prevailing operating and technical environment, including assessment of infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance needs.
Vexturis has undertaken to complete the due diligence and prepare a partnership proposal within 90 days from the date of signing the pact.
The Track Access and Operating Agreement between Tazara and Vecturis boards of directors will mark the beginning of private sector participation in Tazara operations, it added.