The Sunday Mail
Thousands of jobs are in the offing for skilled and unskilled Zimbabweans from a mega infrastructure project that will see the construction of a 400km railway link between Shamva and Moatize in Mozambique.
This comes as a top Chinese construction firm, China Railway Group Limited, last week dispatched a second high-powered delegation to Harare to convince the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development that it has the skills and financial muscle to undertake the massive project.
Government wants investors to construct the Shamva-Moatize railway link to take advantage of plans by the Mozambique government to create a second port north of Maputo, which is expected to ease congestion at Beira.
The project involves cooperation between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and processes are reportedly at an advanced stage to conclude the discussions that will result in the project kicking off.
China Railway initially sent its international agent and advisor Sir Richard Heygate in April this year to explore opportunities in road, roads and airports.
Last week, the company’s vice president and senior engineer, Mr Shao Gang led a strong delegation that met senior officials from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development to try and clinch the tender for the Shamva-Moatize railway link.
Mr Shao met Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo and Permanent Secretary, Engineer George Mlilo, last Monday.
The meeting was also attended by officials from China Railway’s cooperating local partner, Global Power Bridge International.
Global Power Bridge was represented by its chief executive officer, Mr Knowledge Kadzura.
Although details of their meeting remain sketchy, The Sunday Mail Business understands that Mr Shao told the Government officials that China Railway has deep pockets and the capacity to undertake the project.
Mr Shao is understood to have indicated that his firm, which was established in 1950, is not in debt and that “at any time, their balance in the bank will be upwards of US$2,5 billion”.
The Ministry of Transport has already invited companies that have the capacity to undertake various road, rail and airport projects to file their expressions of interest.
China Railway is one of the firms that lodged expressions of interest for a number of projects, including the construction of the Harare-Chitungwiza railway line, Harare-Norton railway line and the Harare CBD-Mabvuku-Ruwa railway line.
Further, the company is angling for the construction of the Kariba International Airport, which is in line with Government efforts to make the tourist destinations accessible.
China Railway is also targeting refurbishing the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls and the Harare-Bindura Highways. All the projects will create thousands of jobs, in sync with the Zanu-PF manifesto for tomorrow’s harmonised elections.
Transport Minister Dr Gumbo confirmed to The Sunday Mail Business last week that the China Railway delegation was in Harare, but said no decision has been taken yet regarding naming the firm that will construct the Shamva-Moatize railway link.
“They (China Railway) are interested in constructing that rail but we don’t have any company as yet that we have settled on. We advertised several roads and railway lines but we haven’t made any considerations out of the expressions of interest we asked for,” said Dr Gumbo.
“Many people expressed interest but we have not yet invited them for presentations. We are still compiling their names and what they said in their expressions of interest because we didn’t go to tender but we went the self-expression of interest route or what are called unsolicited bids.”
Mr Shao could not be reached for comment as he left for Senegal the following day to join Chinese President Xi Jinping on his two-day State visit.
President Xi also visited Rwanda and South Africa, the latter for a BRICS summit, which was also attended by President Mnangagwa on Friday.
Bidders to make presentations
Dr Gumbo said companies that expressed interest in undertaking the infrastructure projects will make presentations in front of a Government panel that will then select the best bid.
The best bid would have to meet Government expectations on repayment terms, the interest rate regime and the expected time to conclude the project.
Government is now very strict with firms that would have expressed interest to implement infrastructure projects after the Geiger International debacle, which, after two years of winning the tender to dualise the Harare-Beitbridge and the Harare-Chirundu Highway, failed to mobilise funds.
This resulted in the tender being cancelled. Negotiations to undertake the project with another moneybag – Chinese firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company – are at an advanced stage.
It is anticipated that once the Shamva-Moatize rail project has been concluded, the link will be used to export an estimated two million tonnes of soya beans to China.
The soya beans deal was struck between Global Power Bridge and a State-owned Chinese company, China HXTF Trade Co.
Thousands of jobs will be created from the two related projects. China Railway officials also met Mr George Magosvongwe, the permanent secretary in the Ministry Local Government, Public Works and National Housing over the construction of the Harare-Chitungwiza light railway.
Mr Magosvongwe assured the delegation that Government is committed to implementing the project, which is expected to partly solve the challenges of congestion in Harare’s central business district.
The company has done light railway projects in Ethiopia and is currently working on the Egyptian and Colombian projects.
China Railways is the world’s largest rail and infrastructure company, which is credited for constructing about a quarter of the rail network in China and over 5 000km of road construction.