Bulawayo - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday welcomed a historical transaction between a consortium from his country and neighbouring South Africa, and the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to deliver rolling stock to the rail agency estimated at over $400 million.
Speaking at a ribbon-cutting and hand-over ceremony at the Bulawayo Railway Station, Mnangagwa said it was a great pleasure to witness the sanctioning of essential resources for the country's railway system.
"I am certain that this marks the turning point of our rail infrastructure as we endeavour to fully industrialise our economy."
Transnet and a South African-based consortium of Zimbabwean investors -- the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG) -- delivered rolling stock to the NRZ to "strengthen regional integration, trade and the recapitalisation of the Zimbabwean railway programme," South Africa's Transnet said in a statement.
This is aimed at addressing Zimbabwe's immediate railway capacity shortfalls. The six-month lease agreement includes seven locomotives, 151 wagons, five passenger coaches, one kitchen car, and one power car.
Mnangagwa said the agreement was key to addressing key resource gaps in the country.
"This development is commended as it resonates well with our vision to grow the economy, and at the same time ensure that the City of Kings and Queens (Bulawayo) is yet again the industrial hub benefiting our nation," he said to cheers from the audience.
"The rail system is essential in the transportation of bulk and heavy goods to strategic sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing industries. To this end, the significance of an effective and efficient railway system cannot be overemphasised -- more so in a land-locked economy like ours -- as it enhances our ability to compete and integrate ourselves in regional and international markets."
He said that transport cost was cited as one of the biggest factors hindering international trade and economic growth in Africa, especially for land-locked countries.
At least 5 000 people gathered on Wednesday and ululated as Mnangagwa walked into the venue.
DIDG and Transnet won a contract to recapitalise NRZ.
DIDG chairman Donovan Chimhandamba said the agreement was a significant milestone for DIDG and the diaspora gave a genuine signal for many in the diaspora to proceed with assessing possibilities in Zimbabwe.
African News Agency/ANA