The Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications of the Republic of Zambia, Hon. Yamfwa Mukanga has called for more concerted efforts from all employees of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and other stakeholders so as to overcome the challenges and turn the railway around.
Speaking when he addressed the management of TAZARA in Dar es Salaam on Friday, Hon. Mukanga called for the transformation of the company so that it can bear more benefits on the economies of the two countries and the region as a whole.
The Minister, who urged the workers and other stakeholders to cherish TAZARA and hold it dear, spoke passionately about the sacrifices made by the former Presidents of Tanzania, Zambia and China, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda and Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, respectively, whom he referred to as the founding fathers of the three countries as well as the founders of TAZARA.
“The challenge is on us to transform this company and turn it around because our founding fathers sacrificed a lot to establish TAZARA, which at the time was necessary for the survival of Zambia as a nation.
At that time, when China agreed to assist, there was no other country that was willing to provide support in the construction of the railway.
It is, therefore, now our duty and obligation to see to it that TAZARA does not collapse and that the hitches that have characterized the company in the last few years are removed,” Hon. Mukanga said.
The Minister said the two governments were doing their best, on their part, to make sure that the financial needs and other necessary requirements were met in order to facilitate the resuscitation of the company.
“We appreciate what our Chinese counterparts have continued to do for TAZARA and we really value their support, but we have a big part to play as the owners of this railway and we are united in our resolve to resuscitate this company,” Hon. Mukanga said.
Earlier, the Managing Director of TAZARA, Eng. Ronald Phiri informed the Minister and his delegation that TAZARA had received several equipment in the last few months from China and was now expecting some working capital injection from the shareholders in order to get back to normal operations.
The equipment were procured through the 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Co-operation signed by the three Governments of China, Tanzania and Zambia on 26 March 2012 in Lusaka, aimed at supporting and boosting the operations of TAZARA.
Eng Phiri said that the equipment received included two shunting locomotives, various rescue and lifting equipment, four track trolleys, assorted spare parts and 30,000 pieces of wooden sleepers.
In addition, four new mainline locomotives and 18 new passenger coaches were due to be received before the end of the year.
The Minister, who was in Dar es Salaam to sign a bilateral agreement on the regulation for cross-border freight and passenger road transport between Tanzania and Zambia, was accompanied by Mr. Peter Kazhila, a Zambian Director on the TAZARA Board, Mr. Nelson Nyangu, the Director of Transport in the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications and Mr. Zindaba Soko, the Director of the Road Transport and Safety Agency of Zambia.
And when asked to present their views on the operational challenges of the Authority, the members of the TAZARA Executive Committee (management team) observed that although the Authority possessed huge potential to raise the operational capacity to higher levels than was currently the case, there were several inhibiting factors that needed to be attended to by the shareholders first.
In particular, the managers urged the two share-holding governments to consider cleaning the Authority’s balance sheet, whose liabilities were said to be too big, constricting the company’s liquidity and discouraging any commercial initiatives.
The managers also urged the shareholders to honour their longstanding promises to recapitalize the Authority and inject fresh working capital once and for all, so that the track and equipment could be refurbished to enable the railway to start operating at normal capacity and sustaining its own operations.
They further appealed to the two governments to respect the TAZARA Act when making appointments of the Authority’s senior executives and equally ensure that substantive office bearers were confirmed in their positions so that they could be held accountable for the performance of the company, unlike the current situation where some office bearers were left to act in positions for over two years.
In response, the Minister said that he was glad the consultation with management was fruitful and assured the team that he had taken note of their concerns and would work on the suggestions through the TAZARA Council of Ministers and the Board of Directors.
TANZANIA-ZAMBIA RAILWAY AUTHORITY
Conrad K Simuchile
Head Public Relations