FORMER National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) general managerAlvord Mabena returned to the parastatal this week as board chairman and a lot is expected from him.
Mabena would lead a seven-member board of NRZ where only one person, retired brigadier general David Chiweza was retained, perhaps for institutional memory.
Other board members appointed by Transport minister Obert Mpofu include Joseph Mashika, Erick Makarimayi, Nomathemba Ndlovu, Chrystosoma Kanjoma and Angeline Karonga.
Mabena’s appointment inspires some confidence because he is not a political or military deployée, but a professional who ran the enterprise before the NRZ sank into a myriad of problems.
Speaking after his appointment he made it clear that a solution to the problems bedevilling NRZ would not be found overnight.
He also pointed out that the task at hand was big, but not insurmountable.
Mabena stressed the need to “find the right chemistry between the board, employees and the government”.
Mpofu said the new board was expected to devise strategies to turn around the fortunes of the NRZ, which has not been able to pay its workers for several months. Early this year the NRZ made proposals to retrench most of its 8 043 workforce due to poor performance, but was stopped by Mpofu.
The collapse of the NRZ has had a serious impact on Bulawayo’s economy which is on its knees due to an erosion of disposable incomes.
Therefore, the revival of the rail transporter has to be top priority for any government that wants to be taken seriously.
Mabena’s board should not only focus on getting the systems at NRZ working again, but should also be given the latitude to work on attracting new investment to the parastatal. The potential of the railways sector in Zimbabwe remains largely untapped because of the government’s deployment of people of questionable credentials to the NRZ.
It is our hope that with Mabena at the helm, the NRZ would return to professionalism and efficiency. Our economy badly needs a functional NRZ.