Zimbabwe Rail Disaster: Three Workers Dead in Train Crash

Transport minister expresses condolences and promises investigation into the cause of the accident

by Victor Adetimilehin

A train carrying chrome and granite plunged into a gorge near the border with Mozambique on Friday night, killing three National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees.

The locomotive, which had 14 wagons loaded with nine export chrome concentrates and five granite blocks, was travelling from Mutare to Machipanda when it failed to negotiate a sharp curve and derailed.

The three NRZ crew members, identified as senior engineman Tasunungurwa Mapuranga, yardman Enock Tawabarira and security officer Pride Femerepi, were trapped inside the wreckage and could not be rescued.

The NRZ said in a statement that preliminary investigations suggest that the train may have suffered a brake failure, leading to a runaway situation. The company said it was still conducting a thorough probe to determine the exact cause of the accident and the extent of the damage.

Minister’s condolences

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona, who is currently attending a UN meeting on inland transport in Geneva, Switzerland, sent a condolence message to the families of the deceased and the NRZ community.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the ministry and all actors in the railways and bulk logistics sector, I wish to extend our deepest and sincere condolences to the grieving and bereaved families, friends and colleagues over the deaths of their loved ones,” he said.

He added that the loss of the three railway men was not only a loss to their families and friends, but to the entire ministry, NRZ and the nation at large.

He praised the workers for their service and dedication to the company and said the ministry and NRZ were doing their best to assist and console the bereaved families during these difficult times.

Rail safety concerns

The train crash has raised concerns about the safety and efficiency of Zimbabwe’s rail network, which has been plagued by years of neglect, underfunding and mismanagement.

According to the NRZ, the company has a fleet of 168 locomotives, of which only 60 are operational. The rest are either obsolete or require major repairs.

The NRZ also faces challenges in maintaining its tracks, signals and communication systems, which are often vandalized or stolen by criminals.

The company has been seeking investors and partners to help revive its operations and upgrade its infrastructure, but progress has been slow.

In 2017, the NRZ signed a $400 million deal with a consortium led by South Africa’s Transnet and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group to lease locomotives, wagons and coaches and rehabilitate the rail network.

However, the deal has been stalled by legal disputes, funding constraints and political interference.

Hope for the future

Despite the challenges, the NRZ remains optimistic about its future and its role in facilitating trade and development in the country and the region.

The company said it was committed to improving its service delivery and safety standards and to restoring its position as the preferred mode of transport for bulk cargo.

The NRZ also said it was working closely with the government and other stakeholders to implement the National Railways Rehabilitation and Modernization Programme, which aims to transform the rail sector into a world-class service provider.

The programme, which is part of the National Development Strategy 1, envisages the acquisition of new rolling stock, the rehabilitation of existing assets, the construction of new lines and the adoption of new technologies.

The NRZ said it hoped that the programme would attract more investment and support from local and international partners and help revive the rail industry and the economy.

Source: The Herald

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