The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu and Harmony Agere
YAPI MERKEZI, the Turkish company which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to recapitalise and modernise the nation’s railway system, has started implementing Phase One of the deal which includes assessing rail infrastructure across the country.
The deal will kick-start the transformation of NRZ through the rehabilitation of the country’s railways.
To date, Yapi Merkezi has indicated that it is impressed with the state and potential of the rail infrastructure.
Yapi Merkezi’s three-member delegation, which was in the country for a week after arriving on September 7, assessed the railway tracks, locomotives and signalling system.
The team assessed possibilities of incorporating light railway systems in urban areas which will be used for public transportation.
Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure Development, Engineer Theodius Chinyanga, on Thursday told The Sunday Mail that Phase One entails rehabilitating existing infrastructure.
He said under Phase One, no new railway infrastructure is envisioned.
“The Turkish entity sent in its delegation about a fortnight ago, they made presentations on capabilities, the kind of support they have from the Turkish government and they invited the Government to visit some of the countries where they are undertaking projects,” Eng Chinyanga said.
“They will be looking at the track, signalling, locomotives, workshops, and any other ancillary areas that NRZ will be looking at rehabilitating, specifically the main railway corridors in order to attract business.
“The first phase of this deal is focusing on existing infrastructure and not new infrastructure. The company has capabilities in passenger coaches to rehabilitate the public transport system in urban areas so light rail will be considered but it will be included in existing infrastructure.
“No new infrastructure is envisioned under this arrangement. The first phase focuses on capacitation and recapitalisation of NRZ in terms of equipment, its tracks, locomotives and wagons. This phase will also involve the scoping mission.”
Eng Chinyanga said the second phase will entail extensive negotiations that will lead to financial closure.
“The second phase will involve discussions. There are needs that the NRZ already knows of. So after the scoping mission, there will be marrying of what Yapi would have found on its mission and what NRZ already knows.
“Once an agreement is struck on the totality of the scope, then there will be the financial discussions and once those are signed off, it means we will be entering the actual implementation.”
In an earlier interview with The Sunday Mail, NRZ acting general manager Mrs Respina Ziyanduko said the deal with Yapi Merkezi had so far gone according to plan.
“We had a meeting with the Turkish investor, Yapi Merkezi, and we are quite happy with the progress,” she said.
“Their technical team was in the country touring our rail infrastructure and they were very pleased with what they saw. They said they didn’t expect the rail network to be as good as it is and that it is one of the best in the region.”
Apart from refurbishing the rail infrastructure, Yapi Merkezi has indicated its intention to include the procurement of locomotives in the deal.
“During the tour, they found about 258 cautions or what we can call rail potholes that need to be repaired,” said Mrs Zinyanduko.
“We are now at a stage where they are doing the costing of the repairs that are needed and they also indicated that they want to procure locomotives for us as part of the deal.
“So they are the ones who will source the funding and provide the technical expertise that is needed. The Government has already given us the greenlight to enter into a contract with Yapi Merkezi so once they finish then we can be able to come up with terms and sign the deal.”
As part of the tour, the Government officials, NRZ executives and the Yapi Merkezi team travelled to Tanzania to assess some of the work that has already been done by the company.
Yapi Merkezi secured a $1,92 billion contract to build a 422 km high-speed electric railway line in Tanzania.
The company was responsible for designing and constructing the railway line in Dar es Salaam.
“Yapi Merkezi is quite a big company which has done a lot of work in Africa and a team went to Tanzania to assess the project that has been done by the company there. This gives us confidence that we are entering intio a deal with the right partner who has a proven track record.”
Meanwhile, Eng Chinyanga revealed that the Government had annulled the deal that NRZ had previously signed with the DIDG/Transnet consortium of South Africa.
The deal, involving a joint venture between the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group — a consortium of Zimbabweans living abroad and South African rail giant Transnet — was agreed in 2017, but cancelled in 2019 after the consortium failed to provide a viable funding plan.
“The DIDG/Transnet arrangement was cancelled. As far as we are concerned as a Ministry we adhered to the decision to cancel the arrangement and instructed NRZ to go back on the market to seek investors.”
Yapi Merkezi is a globally renowned brand in rail technologies. The company is ranked 78th in the 2020 list of top international 250 contractors.
The NRZ requires a capital injection of US$400 million in the short to medium term to return to profitability.
Speaking during the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between NRZ and Yapi Merkezi in Turkey recently, the investor’s general manager, Mr Ali Aslan Uzun, said they have the capacity to overhaul Zimbabwe’s railway network.