Our country has faced myriads of economic challenges for the past two decades consequent of the land reform program which sort to give economic to the native Zimbabweans.
By Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
However, the withdrawal of support by Bretton Woods institutions and sanctions has left Zimbabwe’s economy swimming in deep, dark and murky waters.
The Second Republic has however shown signs of economic stabilization which still need more commitment and national cohesion for us to be able to ensure sustainable human development and economic growth.
With organic, homegrown solutions and a good buy-in of the citizens, total economic stability is achievable.
NRZ workers have not been spared the wrath of economic hardships since 2008 as they have been victims of economic exclusion, retrenchment and marginalization.
The railway sector is a strategic sector which needs to be prioritized as gravitates toward the implementation of the National Development Strategy. Improving NRZ operations will go a long way in stabilizing the economy.
We honestly can’t revive the NRZ with a demotivated and demoralized workforce.
As a former NRZ worker and trade unionist, I, therefore, present the challenges my colleagues are facing and make recommendations hitherto.
1) Restructuring and change of management
Indeed, for a turnaround restructuring and change is a necessary “evil”, however, it may have a negative impact on the operation of an entity especially one like the NRZ where there are certain specialised jobs.
The movement of some of these key personnel may result in loss of the knowledge they have and may cause inefficiencies in the running of the entity going forward.
We, therefore, need to take stock of the system now and identify where possible key personnel were affected and reinstate them with the view of plugging inefficiencies
2) The Railway Family and culture
Railway employees and management for a long time have considered themselves a family and they have their own social cultures which they observe since most of them still live in the same previously railway townships, like Nguminja, Sizinda, Greenhill, Lochinvar, Rugare just to mention a few.
Whatever that is affecting the company is reflected in the social livelihoods of these suburbs and it has the effect of even amplifying itself through non-railway people leaving within the same areas.
So far ever since the restructuring I am of the view management has alienated themselves from these communities and cultures.
Management needs to reengage itself with the community by improving the social welfare of all employees in the community.
For example, back then in Hwange, there used to be a bus that would ferry workers to and from work, at the same time it would also carry their spouses and children to shopping and schools.
This has ceased to happen. Another example is that of the GM Sports gala which was abolished without notice or reason. Some of these social programmes were important to workers and boosted their morale.
The reintroduction of some of these social events will reflect well on the Railway community and award a good image to management, the board and the second republic.
The NRZ worker is the least motivated of all the parastatal workers in Zimbabwe because of the journey they have traversed through from the hyperinflation period to non-payment of salaries and back again to inflation.
However, most of them have been resilient throughout and never left the organisation because they put it at heart.
The demotivation only prevents them to give it their all as they have been treated as second class citizens/workers for over a decade now.
Financially it is recommended that salaries keep up with the inflation. It may be wise also to follow the government policy changes, for example, the civil service is now receiving part of the salaries in hard currency, so it is done for the railway workers.
Once financial motivation has been achieved it is then prudent to start on a lot of non-financial motivational strategies, like training and betterment of certain job titles etc.
4) REC Engagements and Litigations
Management has been hostile in its engagements with the trade unions. The recent dismissals of union leaders do not auger well for the employees, other outside union federations, and international bodies like ILO.
It also leaves gaps for the attack on the second republic by non-patriotic opposition and other anti-government entities.
It is a common cause that parties to a contest lose control of the contest as they escalate the matters from negotiations to arbitrations and then appeals.
It is therefore my recommendation that most cases should be concluded at the negotiation stage as this creates a big buy-in of the unions and employees.
A good rapport should be created between the management and union leaders. Management should show the willingness of abandoning some litigation cases and opt for out of court settlements.
The human capital of NRZ is very essential for the achievement of the turnaround as some of the skills and knowledge are only trained and cultured within the Railways.
It, therefore, behoves the board and management to identify the special skills and institutional memory banks with the view of tapping from them in the process of legacy retention.
*Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo. Vene vayo vakaguta uye vachiwana zvikwanisiro zvizere kuti vavake nyika yavo nerudo.*