ZAMBIAN Transport & Communications Minister Rev Anoshi Chipawa confirmed on March 19 that a Swedish consultancy had been selected to manage and restructure Zambia Railways over the next 2 1??2 years. He revealed that an agreement with Hifab International AB had been signed in December, after four years of negotiations with Swedish firms.

Insisting the deal did not mean ’de-Zambianisation’ of the railway management, Chipawa said the consultants would provide assistance in repositioning the railway ’for either privatisation, concessioning or any other means by which it will eventually be managed in the future.’ He confirmed that the government was ’actively considering’ adding ZR to the list of state-owned enterprises to be privatised.

In 1994 Zambian President Frederick Chiluba reached agreement with the Swedish International Development Agency to fund a management restructuring at ZR. Hifab International has already appointed key staff to run the business, and is identifying Zambian counterparts to work alongside the Swedish experts during the contract period. Robert Crawford has taken over as Managing Director of ZR, in place of Clement Mambwe, who will continue to serve on the company board. Chipawa paid tribute to Mambwe’s efforts to keep ZR functioning, and said that the board would continue to play an important role in monitoring the restructuring process for the government.

Crawford has started negotiations with ZR management and the railway workers union over future restructuring. He pointed out that many of ZR’s problems result from a declining cash flow, because of over-dependency on copper traffic. Falling demand for copper had depressed the price, affecting foreign exchange earnings and ZR freight revenues.

HDeputy Transport & Communications Minister Dickson Matatu announced on March 26 that the government planned to award a concession to finance and construct the unfinished 24 km link from Chipata to the Malawian border at Mchinji, started in 1980. The government had identified two countries willing to back the project, he revealed, adding that he hoped work could resume as early as this month. o