Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza inherited a portfolio that superintends over struggling, but key parastatals such as Air Zimbabwe and the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
Matiza (JBM) told our senior reporter Richard Chidza (RC) in an exlusive interview that one of his major tasks in the next 100 days is to eliminate corruption and ensure that the parastatals are working.
He singled out the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID), saying the government has to deal with the rampant graft that has seen thousands of people acquiring driver’s licences illegally.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
RC: Congratulations on your appointment, what is your vision?
JBM: I am grateful to the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) for showing such confidence and trust in me to handle this portfolio. I will not let him and the nation down.
In the few days I have been in office I have managed to scan the ministry, which indeed is huge.
I have looked at parastatals and yes, some have challenges.
However, I have a feeling we have to focus on making sure these entities are working. If there are any problems, they need to be addressed.
The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has the infrastructure and its efficiency will help in achieving vision 2030.
My predecessor (Joram Gumbo) had begun to work on a partnership or joint venture between the NRZ and DIDG/Transnet Consortium, I have since met the two parties and I have been going through every detail.
This is business and we don’t want something that will collapse or be costly but the business plan from what I have seen is encouraging.
But we need a deeper understanding of it all, the nuts and bolts to see whether this is the best to get the wagons moving again.
RC: Could you give us in brief your vision for each of the parastatals under your purview?
JBM: We also have the Chitungwiza railway project and there are people who have put up a proposal.
We will discuss this with the Local Government ministry to see the way forward.
As regards the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), it is hamstrung by legacy debt and we have discussed this with Treasury.
There are proposals to see what will happen to it. We also need to speed up the issue of us having the latest radar system so that Zimbabwe does not become an aviation black spot. We need to invest in the latest technology.
RC: We have heard you are proposing to break it up, I mean CAAZ.
JBM: Indeed there will be a break-up of CAAZ into the Airports Authority to regulate aviation, and Airports Development Company so we fulfil requirements of international standards and bring efficiency to our air space.
That unbundling is ongoing and we will oversee that. We want to look at all aerodromes and small airports in every province as well as our resorts and towns to increase tourism.
RC: Zinara does not have a substantive CEO at the moment because she is on suspension. What happens now?
JBM: Zinara is our cash cow and we need to make sure it is ticking so that we also speed up the development of our roads.
I have met with the board, and have assigned my deputy (Fortune Chasi) to look into Zinara and make sure we are on sound footing for take-off.
But I can assure you in all our parastatals, corruption is not going to be tolerated.
We will not be apologetic about that. The president is clear; Zimbabwe is no home for corrupt elements.
The CMED is doing well and recently posted some profit. It’s an equipment entity and our road construction and other infrastructural projects will need a fully equipped CMED, which we are advised is happening.
RC: The black cat of your ministry is probably Air Zimbabwe and the shadowy ZimAirways. You want to merge them and forget everything that’s happened?
JBM: I have looked at Air Zimbabwe and we have a strategy to turn it around. There is the issue of ZimAirways and this is a government company.
They have four planes, we want them to come home and fly. They must make money for the country than be an albatross on the fiscus.
These are long-haul planes. They belong in the skies, and for that to happen we must open up the routes.
We have had discussions with the relevant authorities and there will be dialogue on this issue.
RC: ZimAirways already had separate offices and management team?
JBM: We will just merge them and create a vibrant Air Zimbabwe that will carry our flag globally.
RC: Any plans to investigate the deal which looks murky?
JBM: We do not want to be bogged down by baggage around what happened.
If there is anything untoward that has happened, government has structures that deal with specific issues.
I know there has been talk of corruption and underhand dealings, I am yet to get a full briefing on this, but the minister is not a prosecutor.
We provide policy direction, but in a clear and clean environment.
Those state institutions created to fight crime have a mandate and I am certain they will do their work if there is need to do so. We will not stand in anyone’s way.
RC: The Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway is a critical project, but it is in limbo. Do we now have a contractor for the project?
JBM: No contractor as yet. We are discussing with one possible contractor. But we do not have time.
We don’t want the discussions to continue ad-infinitum.
We are looking at the coming months that something tangible should be in place and that there should be real work on the ground that we can point at.
RC: There have also been reports of plans to revamp all border posts.
JBM: Work has already started on the ground dealing with the Beitbridge Border Post. We will have a re-look at Chirundu, Sango and all others while you will remember that the president quickly moved in to make sure that Zimbabwe is integrated into the Kazungula corridor trunk road.
We cannot allow ourselves to be left out and be an island in the region, so we are in and we are looking at having a proper border post in that area.
RC: What should Zimbabweans expect from your ministry in the next 100 days?
JBM: We would want to complete the e-governance issue as this will lead to computerisation of our vital departments such as CMED, CVR (Central Vehicle Registry), VID etc including Zinara.
Zinara has a partner and we are looking into the pricing structure of their partnership to make sure the government benefits more.
The collection system is efficient as a result we have opened five more tollgates and all this eliminates human intervention, which was a source of corruption.
The Vehicle Inspection Department is making money, but they could make more if they are innovative and probably bring in a partner or partners to run some of their inspection depots.
We must deal with the corruption at the VID and CVR, we want to eradicate such practices and this to a large extent can be eliminated once we complete the e-governance programme.
These entities could make much more if we remove the red-tape and corruption.
We want the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) to be capacitated, to have teeth and probably be turned into a regulatory authority.
We want it to enforce the law, TSCZ should have teeth to make sure all our roads are safe.