Since the formation of the GNU in February 2009, the Zimbabwe economy has shown remarkable resilience and recovery but the transport sector remains in a complete shambles demonstrated by a number of examples.
Air Zimbabwe had the best safety record of any airline in the world and was a recognised flag bearer for Zimbabwe in all areas where it operated. It is now bankrupt, being liquidated and is unable even to operate at low levels inside the country. Strikes caused by failure to pay salaries for months are now a common phenomenon.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe has failed to complete construction of the Victoria Falls, Buffalo Range and Joshua Nkomo airports despite being allocated funds by the Ministry of Finance.
Zimbabwe once had the best road network in Africa after South Africa with 25 000 km of main trunk roads and 35 000 km of rural trunk roads and 45 000 km of feeder roads in rural areas. Now all major roads are in need of upgrading. All secondary roads are seriously potholed and in many cases impassable. Damage from Cyclone Eline has not yet been given attention and most rural roads can no longer carry traffic.
Another Transport and Infrastructure Development ministry entity, the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (Zinara) has shamelessly constructed sub-standard tollgates across the country’s major highways, which are inferior to those built by South Africa decades ago. Zinara has been failing to dualise the country’s major roads despite collecting revenue from tollgates for five years; the organisation has allegedly been abusing the revenue.
The abuse of the taxpayer’s money has been evident in the non-completion of the bridges near Houghton Park, along the Harare-Masvingo highway and the one near Norton along the Harare-Bulawayo road.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe which once employed 30 000 people and moved over two million tonnes of cargo a month as well as millions of passengers in comparative comfort around Zimbabwe now can hardly move 1,7 million tonnes of cargo and a few thousand passengers a year in its derelict wagons. Employment levels have collapsed to 9 500 and the transporter, just like Air Zimbabwe, cannot even pay salaries to its workers and remittances to its pensioners.
The worship of power at the expense of ordinary people’s needs has been the dominant creed.
In a study on the challenges of downsizing the NRZ carried out in 2012, one scholar noted; “Most of these parastatals lack managers who are appointed on merit.”
Poor performance, high staff turn-over, derailments, low investment in the sector, political meddling, working capital shortages and the skewed role of the government and merits and demerits of downsizing constitute some of the host of challenges bedevilling the NRZ. All these obstacles lead to its current poor state and its consistent dismal failure to deliver quality goods and services.
The parastatal has been militarised through the appointment of both active and retired military personnel as senior managers ostensibly, according to one minister “to expedite the change process at the parastatal at a military pace with military compliance”.
This created serious conflicts between the civilian working population and the civilian management on one hand and the military outfits on the other.
The scholar also noted: “Further to militarising NRZ, the government in 2009 ordered the quasi-government institution to recruit more than 2 000 personnel comprising war veterans, youth militia graduates from Border Gezi Training Camps around the country, serving army technicians, soldiers, Zimbabwe Air Force high command personnel at the rank of lieutenants, colonels, brigadiers, sergeants and wing commanders, just to mention a few.”
Central Intelligence Officers were also brought in under different assignments. There is also a tug-of-war as to who gets relieved of their duties to cut down costs at the parastatal.
The writing is on the wall, that all state enterprises controlled by Goche’s ministry are known to be corrupt, one way or the other, and making decisions on a partisan basis that does not serve the best interests of the nation. Our experience since 2009, when Goche took over, shows that far from learning from the mistakes of the past, the ministry continues to mismanage the affairs of state enterprises under his control.