TROUBLED RAILWAYS

In January the Guardian reported that serious discussions were still underway between the government and the Indian investor-RITES – on the possibilities of amending some sections of the contract governing the operations of Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL). The government was also considering whether the contract between the two shareholders should continue or not. The government was still topping up workers’ salaries at a cost of about Shs 522 million monthly, these sums being loans to the company. The government expected that they would be repaid when the firm started operating efficiently.

TRL has been experiencing differences on policy with the Indian company and the workers have been on a number of strikes since the new management took over operations of the central railway line three years ago.

Also in January the Guardian published a strange story about the other main railway – the Tanzania Zambia Railways (TAZARA).
Extracts: ‘The Managing Director of TAZARA, who went missing since last November, has spoken from his hideout, saying that the tense situation in the company had left him with only one option – to leave the country. He said that his hasty departure was prompted by leaked information that the police were pursuing him to face some charges in court. He said he could not withstand ‘the heat’ bearing in mind that he had never been in court before, even to bail out someone. The charges he was facing included contempt of court. He feared the charges were economically motivated following stringent measures he had imposed after assuming office. He accused “some people” of ….cheating on the volume of cargo ferried; others siphoned diesel and lubricant from locomotives while others worked day and night to deny haulage to the firm, making connections with private lorry owners instead. He was also quoted as saying that the one year he had been in office was the time of rebuilding, including repairing locomotive engines and wagons and the infrastructure to reduce accidents that occurred frequently. “Unfortunately, after June 2009 the world economic meltdown hit TAZARA…There was very little traffic as copper from Zambia dropped from 15,000 tonnes to just 5,000 tonnes.’

The Guardian also reported that Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Shukuru Kawambwa had said that his office was aware of the disappearance of the MD, and that deliberations on the matter would be held at a joint meeting involving concerned ministers from Tanzania and Zambia. Kawambwa also said that the Chinese government was set to lend Tanzania and Zambia $ 39 million as part of new a strategy to bailout the jointly-owned railway line. The Chinese government was also going to send management and technical staff to support the existing management. In an editorial, the Guardian proposed that a major management, manpower and financial audit be conducted so as to bring to the fore all underlying issues and durable solutions recommended. Furthermore, the system of appointment of the Chief Executive should be reviewed.

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