NRZ crisis: Minister pleads with govt

TRANSPORT Minister Joram Gumbo has pleaded with government-owned firms to pay debts owed to the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) so the ailing parastatal can restore normal operations which have been worsened by the current industrial action by unpaid workers.

NRZ has lost lucrative contracts ... Minister Joram Gumbo

NRZ has lost lucrative contracts … Minister Joram Gumbo

Over 4,000 company workers downed tools Tuesday last week to press for payment of outstanding salaries running into more than a year.

The job action has further stalled the transportation of wheat and drought relief maize.

Panicking NRZ managers last week pleaded with the workers to return to work saying the strike was crippling operations at the firm.

Meanwhile, some of the workers were given amounts of between $60 and $350 to cover basic expenses.

Speaking in the upper house this past week, Gumbo admitted state firms were partly to blame for the current rot at NRZ.

“As management and the ministry, we are now looking at people who owe NRZ lots of monies and we are now going to these companies and pleading with them to pay,” he said.

“We know that some of these companies are government companies and we are pleading with Treasury to use TBs which can be converted into cash and workers given a minimum amount of the cut pay so they have something to take home.”

Women and children hit hard

The crisis at the company has been condemned by the opposition and lobby groups who say women and children have been left homeless as affected families struggle to pay rentals.

“It is disturbing how the NRZ is playing a blind eye and literally adopts a ‘business as usual approach’ to the dire conditions they have subjected the employees and their families to.

“It is high time a solution is found before the situation gets worse,” said People’s Democratic Party women’s assembly leader Chipo Taderera, an NRZ employee.

Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance Linda Masarira said it was incredible that NRZ would fail to pay its workers for 15 months and still expect them to report for duty.

“How does one explain a very big company like NRZ, which is seen everyday day operating and transacting and fail to pay its workers and yet expect them to report for duty every day?

“We see granite stones being transported every day in the wagons and you, surely, cannot say these companies are not paying for that business.

“This is a typical example of modern day slavery which must be condemned at all levels,” said Masarira.

NRZ contracts terminated

Gumbo blamed the poor performance of the once thriving parastatal on the loss of lucrative contracts which have seen declining freight quantities moved by some top firms in the country through railway transport.

He said the NRZ management has since responded to the current crisis through slashing salaries which saw the highest paid employee now getting $700 per month and the lowest receiving $170.

“Despite taking that step of cutting down on salaries, we have companies like ZISCO, ZIMASCO, HWANGE and Tongaat Hulett which were giving NRZ lots of business and keeping it afloat, viably but these companies are no longer able to give business to the railways,” said the minister.

“Tongaat Hulett for example, is a sugar manufacturing which was paying $800,000 per month but that contract has been abrogated since October 2015.

“Hwange Colliery used to give railways business of carrying coal to different areas, ZIMASCO is no longer carrying the ore to those areas.

“Consequently, the NRZ no longer has such lucrative contracts that used to give it money. As a result, there is no money to pay the workers.”

On its part, the NRZ is saddled with a $144 million debt while it owes employees $68 million in long overdue salaries.

“This is a typical example of modern day slavery which must be condemned at all levels,” said Masarira.

NRZ contracts terminated

Gumbo blamed the poor performance of the once thriving parastatal on the loss of lucrative contracts which have seen declining freight quantities moved by some top firms in the country through railway transport.

He said the NRZ management has since responded to the current crisis through slashing salaries which saw the highest paid employee now getting $700 per month and the lowest receiving $170.

“Despite taking that step of cutting down on salaries, we have companies like ZISCO, ZIMASCO, HWANGE and Tongaat Hulett which were giving NRZ lots of business and keeping it afloat, viably but these companies are no longer able to give business to the railways,” said the minister.

“Tongaat Hulett for example, is a sugar manufacturing which was paying $800,000 per month but that contract has been abrogated since October 2015.

“Hwange Colliery used to give railways business of carrying coal to different areas, ZIMASCO is no longer carrying the ore to those areas.

“Consequently, the NRZ no longer has such lucrative contracts that used to give it money. As a result, there is no money to pay the workers.”

On its part, the NRZ is saddled with a $144 million debt while it owes employees $68 million in long overdue salaries.

 

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  1. Lynda Tsungie Masarira

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