GOVERNMENT has refuted reports that the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) – the joint venture between Tanzania and Zambia – will end on August 1 this year to allow the two countries operate separate railway firms.
Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Yamfwa Mukanga said the reported pronouncement by Tanzania is not what was discussed at a recent TAZARA Council of Ministers meeting in Lusaka.
Mr Mukanga, however, said if that is what Tanzania wants, Zambia is able to operate an independent entity.
“We did not discuss that, but we spoke about a mapping strategy on how we will enhance the operations of Tazara and the introduction of call centres.
“But if they want it that way [to separate], we will stand on our own, although next month, we are having a council meeting in Tanzania. If they agree that that’s what they want, then we will discuss and move forward,” he said.
According to information obtained by the Daily Mail, Tanzanian Minister of Transport Harrison Mwakyembe said the joint venture through Tazara ends on August 1 this year.
Dr Mwakyembe was quoted by The Guardian newspaper of Tanzania as saying the decision to separate the operations of Tazara was reached at the recent TAZARA Council of Ministers meeting in Lusaka.
“Effective August this year, Tanzania will have its permanent leadership [regional manager] and not acting heads as it is now. However, the government is planning on embarking on a new train route from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya without crossing the border to Zambia,” the minister said.
Dr Mwakyembe said the changes would take place despite the exercise of amending TAZARA laws being in progress.
He said Tanzania has already made its recommendations on the amendment of the laws but Zambia is yet to do so.
And the Daily News of Tanzania reports that Tanzania and Zambia have agreed to decentralise and transform TAZARA operations by making it operate ‘commercially and profitably.’
It reports that the two partner states will now change the modality of their ownership in the railway, with a view to increasing the authority’s profitability and self-reliance.
Tanzania, Zambia and China built the railway line to rescue the landlocked Zambia’s economy from dependence on colonial Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white minority governments.
It provided the only route for bulk trade from Zambia’s Copperbelt to reach the sea without having to transit white-ruled territories.
Dr Mwakyembe told a press conference in Dar es Salaam that under the new modality, each country could run its business, saying the new modality allows a partner state to run trains without consulting another.
“Previously, we had a passenger train with one route from Dar es Salaam to Zambia but the new modality allows each country to run passenger trains within its borders,” said the minister while briefing reporters on deliberations reached by transport ministers of the two countries in a meeting in Zambia two weeks ago.
Dr Mwakyembe said the meeting, which was also attended by financial affairs and industry ministers of the two countries, had decided that both countries should clear the salary arrears of the TAZARA staff in June.
TAZARA, also known as the Uhuru Railway, is a key transporter of cargo, mostly copper and other minerals from Zambian mines to Dar es Salaam for export to overseas markets.
It also transports passengers. Zambia and Tanzania recently agreed to inject US$80 million into operations of the company for working capital and to pay off salary arrears.