BY PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
NATIONAL Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) lost US$3 663 725 to theft and vandalism of rail infrastructure between 2018 and 2019, it has been revealed.
The parastatal says despite the arrest of some criminals, it was disappointing that the courts were given short sentences, which were not deterrent.
NRZ spokesperson Nyasha Maravanyika said vandalism and theft were a major drawback to the efficient running of the rail company.
“From 2018 to 2109 we have lost infrastructure worth US$3 663 725,” Maravanyika said.
“We have experienced theft and vandalism of copper, point machines, interlocking equipment accessories, telegraphic poles and copper cables worth US$1 144 403.”
He said theft and vandalism was experienced nationally, but mostly in secluded areas where lighting was poor and areas close to settlements both rural and urban.
“Some of the infrastructure that have been vandalised include saw mills along the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo rail line, Mpopoma, Masasa in Harare, Kwekwe, Gweru, Shamwari and Dabuka,” Maravanyika added.
He said NRZ had replaced infrastructure worth US$200 000, which was not enough to bring it back to its feet.
“Vandalism and theft have had a serious impact on NRZ as these affect service delivery, the safety and security of both the passengers and their goods.
“There are also delays on routes due to manual cranking of point machines to set the route among other problems,” Maravanyika said.
“People need to know that infrastructure does not belong to NRZ or any institution.
“The infrastructure belongs to us as Zimbabweans, therefore, let us all cooperate because maize and cooking oil are transported through the rail.”
The NRZ spokesperson said they had taken various measures including awareness campaigns to alleviate the challenges, which include rewarding whistleblowers.
He, however, called for deterrent sentences to be imposed on vandals.
“The judiciary and the police are not hitting hard on the criminals. They are being given six months in prison and sometimes there are serious delays in courts to finalise the matters,” Maravanyika said.
Vandalism is straining NRZ which is the backbone of the country’s transport sector as it is the most cost-effective mode when it is fully operational.
A number of industries, especially those that transport heavy or voluminous materials, are directly affected by the vandalism of NRZ equipment.
Agriculture, for example, relies heavily on the rail for transportation of inputs such as seed and fertilisers because road transport costs three times more.
Profit margins in the agricultural sector are so narrow that farmers would prefer rail because it is the cheapest mode of transport and its infrastructure needs to be replaced to serve the nation.
However, before the country looks at replacing the vandalised infrastructure, NRZ and other companies which have been hit by vandalism should put in place measures to curb cases of cable theft. —Additional reporting by Leonard Makombe.
l This story was published by NewsDay in January 2020.