Ray Bande Senior Reporter
A LEAKING water tank at the National Railways of Zimbabwe premises along Second Street in Mutare has become a convenient bathing space for the few occasions that street kids and the mentally challenged people decide to freshen up.
During the chilly winter nights, pavements of disused offices and a canteen located near the NRZ Mutare Passenger Train Section entrance are now providing shelter to urchins and the homeless who have set base there.
Exposed rusty metal pieces of different shapes and sizes strewn around the premises can easily be taken for substantial evidence of wanton looting and vandalism of infrastructure for sale to scrap metal buyers.
The thick growth around the place is not only an eyesore, but provides fertile ground for different illicit activities.
Such is the desolate ambience of the National Railways of Zimbabwe premises in Mutare.
Its denigration from a smart public transport station to a desolate site is surely a matter of public concern.
During the ongoing national lockdown, passenger train services are on suspension and from the investigations conducted by The Manica Post, it looks like no maintenance work of the premises and equipment is being conducted.
NRZ public relations manager, Mr Nyasha Maravanyika, conceded that the place is in an atrocious state.
He said the management has been sleeping on duty.
He lamented on the evident vandalism of NRZ property, which is being worsened by the presence of a ready market for scrap metal.
“We are yet to calculate the loss suffered from vandalism of NRZ property but it’s huge.
“We have had successful security operations done in areas like Chiredzi and Gweru, where some arrests were made. However, the same cannot be said of Mutare.
“We just have to beef up the security and engage key stakeholders in Mutare, including the Zimbabwe Republic Police, so that we find ways of controlling the theft and vandalism.
“On the atrocious state of our premises, we made the mistake of closing the passenger service department and then forgetting to maintain the premises during the ongoing lockdown. We slept on duty and redress has to be sought immediately,” admitted Mr Maravanyika.
NRZ has been in dire need of recapitalisation given its dilapidated infrastructure.
Harsh economic operating conditions have seen the State-owned parastatal reducing its schedules.
Just before the Covid-19 lockdown, the passenger train for the Mutare-Harare route would leave the capital and make the return trip the next day, unlike in the past when one couch would travel from Harare while the other would travel to Harare during the same night.
Moral decadence has also found a way to fit into the matrix.
With truck drivers now parking in the vicinity of the rail service provider’s premises, commercial sex workers have suddenly found new hunting grounds.
Mr Romeo Mhlanga, a truck driver who usually parks around the area enroute to Harare from Beira said: “This place is usually a hive of activity during the night as sex workers frequent here for potential clients. It appears they are making money given the numbers that consistently frequents this area.”
Ms Sheila Khumalo, a fruit vendor said: “We have not felt the Covid-19 lockdown effects much because we have been selling our products to the truck drivers who park here.
“While there was an initial decrease in their numbers, it was not long before their movements normalised.”