Friday, January 18, 2013

Our rail system will surpass that of SA - Chirwa

Our rail system will surpass that of SA - Chirwa
By Henry Sinyangwe
Fri 18 Jan. 2013, 13:30 CAT

PROFESSOR Clive Chirwa says Zambia's rail system will surpass that of South Africa in the next five years owing to a strong strategy put in place for its resuscitation.

And a board for Zambia Railways has been constituted, with Mark Chona appointed as chairperson.

Professor Chirwa, who has been given a five-year contract to revamp the country's railway system following the failed concession between government and Railway Systems of Zambia, said yesterday during the announcement of the board that his team was determined to bring in new technology in the railway sector that would be better than that of South Africa.

"We will bring in better trains, better passenger coaches and everything else, perhaps even better than South Africa. South Africa has yesterday's technology. We are bringing in new technology which will enable us move this country forward," he said, adding that his desire was to work hard to meet the people's expectations.

"We have a vision which we have already presented to the board and we are presenting it to the nation on the 31st of January at an open forum where people will be able to listen on how we intend to build Zambia Railways.

"I would like to thank his Excellency President Sata for looking up to me, to say that 'okay, he is a son of Zambia who can do something for us' and I accepted that offer and I have come home and its good to come home and I want to do something for Zambia and I will try so hard to make sure that the expectations of the Zambian people are upheld and we will within three years see a railway system which we want to build together with the board."

And transport, communications, works and supply permanent secretary Dr Muyenga Atanga said the government was satisfied with the calibre of the appointed board members for Zambia Railways.

These include economic consultant Professor Oliver Saasa who is the board vice chairperson, commerce permanent secretary Stephen Mwansa, finance permanent secretary Pamela Chibonga, retired Zambia Railways employee Richard Chipanama, mechanical engineer Geoffrey Mulenga, private lawyer Ireen Dzeko Mbewe, business management consultant Jornam Mwansa, Solicitor General Musa Mwenye, and Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) chief executive officer Zindaba Soko.

"Most people are saying that we have been quiet, especially after the announcement by our leaders that Zambia Railways was repossessed to do away with the concession and that government took the initiative to source for somebody who can steer this system to progress. Government first needed to put in place a board which was a very important initiative. There was need to ensure that a properly selected board was put in place and that board is very important…," said Dr Atanga who is part of the board as a representative of the government.

And Chona said those who may have encroached on Zambia Railways land should move to pave way for its rescuscitation.

"Those holding on to ZR assets and those who may have encroached on the land which belongs to the company, this property belongs to the Zambian people and farmers, if you don't produce, it will be a white elephant railway system unless it has something to carry, so you must produce," said Chona.

Prof Saasa observed that most sectors of the economy had lagged behind due to the poor transport infrastructure.

"We have a major challenge in the state of infrastructure and the degree to which that infrastructure compliments and supplements the growth that we have recorded. This is where the railway system and roads come in because without the infrastructure that feeds in and supports the growth we have recorded, you will discover that most of the sectors will not record higher gains in terms of growth. The railway system has hampered this growth in the last 10 years," said Prof Saasa.

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