Minister Reviews Projects of Eswatini Railways

On Thursday the 7th of April 2022, the honorable Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe led a delegation of his ministerial team, members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and the Director of Public Enterprise Unit (PEU) on a working tour of ESR Projects and operation. The team was hosted by the ESR Board of Directors led by the Chairman Mr. Alex Mngomezulu and the CEO. The objective was for the team to acquaint themselves with the operations of the parastatal and the new developments currently taking place in the state-owned entity. The MoPW&T is ESR’s parent ministry hence it is important for the collaborative visits to take place so that the teams can understand and witness the work being undertaken on the ground from time to time. ESR is grateful for the support that the Ministry, Portfolio Committee and PEU always extends to the organization from time to time to make it possible for the organization to undertake its business of being a viable operation that does not seek government financial subventions from time to time. This is possible only because the board, management and staff of the operation makes sure that the entity is run as a profitable enterprise that is competitive enough to meet customer needs and expectations.

Mpaka Inland Container Depot (ICD)
The visit kicked off at Mpaka where a site visit of the Mpaka Inland Container Depot or Dry Port is being constructed. This port will have the same operations as the Matsapha ICD where containerized cargo will be handled. The port is of strategic importance because ESR seeks to provide a service to businesses in the eastern part of the country who seek to move containers to either the ports of Maputo, Richards Bay, and Durban. This facility will cut the distance and cost those businesses incur when moving cargo from the East to the Matsapha Dry Port to be transported to overseas markets. Mpaka will be a hub for the Eastern operations and will be significant in that aspect. The project is currently at construction phase where the first phase will be completed at the end of April 2022 and operationalization of the facility will begin. The first phase will be able to handle about 7200 TEUs. There will be 2 more phases that will seek to expand the project to be able to have a bigger handling capacity. Those phases will be undertaken in the future. A good number of 56 community based eMaswati have been employed during the construction phase of this project. The local community was involved at the initial stage to avail labor to the contractor that is tasked with constructing the facility. There will be full time jobs that will be made available because of operational requirements of the facility in the future.

Sidvokodvo Coal Operation
A lot of coal is being transported by road haulers through the Eastern part of the Republic of South Africa along the N4 through the Lebombo border to the Maputo Port. This has resulted in serious logistical issues particularly at the border where trucks get stuck for more than 24 hours attempting to cross. This results in costly delays regarding delivery of the product to the port for loading and reaching markets on time. Grindrod, an operator in the coal, ferrochrome and other minerals space explored a solution of transporting coal through Eswatini to the Maputo port. The solution explored availed itself in the form of a working relationship with ESR where road haulers will deposit coal at the Sidvokodvo Train siding, and it will be loaded onto the train and be transported to the Maputo port. This solution eliminates the border bottleneck that has frustrated many logistics operators like Grindrod on the Ressano Garcia route. ESR through a logistics working relationship with Grindrod have developed this solution that has been in operation since December 2021. This operation will add much needed tonnage to the ESR operation and utilize the previously underutilized Goba line which connects Eswatini railways
network with that of our Mozambique counterparts. It is a collaborative effort of the two teams which has provided a lot of spin off opportunities to local road haulers to fetch the product from RSA together with their South African counterparts and deliver it at Sidvokodvo. There are currently 40% Swazi road haulers servicing this business. Local community has also benefited with the employment of eMaswati at the siding to do various jobs. Most of the truck operators prefer to fill up on fuel in Eswatini since the cost is lower than in the neighboring RSA. Currently ESR has a 3-year renewable contract with the Grindrod who is ESRs customer. This project wouldn’t be complete without the collaborative efforts with the Mozambique Railway operator (CFM) who provide much needed locomotive and crew support to haul the cargo to the port. The synergies exhibited by these have made it possible to pull off the project.

Matsapha Station
The visit concluded at Matsapha where the team saw the operation of the Matsapha station and the new timber project. ESR has moved a lot of timber which has been on the road from Bhunya to Richards Bay back onto rail. This is significant and beneficial to both road and rail as road haulers now move shorter profitable distances within Eswatini while leaving the longer haul to rail. The road will also get a breather because more heavy haulage means more stress for our roads. The Minister indicated happiness at the way the tour unfolded and emphasized the government’s commitment to making sure that rail continues to thrive. He stated that rail projects are essential part of the economy and the projects shown to the team are paramount in stimulating economic activities across various sectors of Eswatini’s economy.

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