The National Railways of Zimbabwe has cut out previous tenants of its properties who were acting as middlemen and earning huge sums from sub-leasing and is now dealing directly with actual occupants.
Already, NRZ is generating about US$250 000 a month through leasing some of its Harare properties after it removed space barons.
For the past 12 years, up to 100 space barons in Harare were individually renting space from NRZ paying $3 000 monthly but would go on to subdivide and sublet to over 10 different people, whom they each charged US$250.
Calculations show that in the past 12 years alone, the space barons paid NRZ $43,2 million for 100 spaces, instead of US$36 million, translating to $2,9 billion at the prevailing interbank rate.
NRZ was losing revenue from its other properties in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Mutare.
Speaking at NRZ Harare offices on Wednesday after meeting some tenants, who are now leasing space directly from the organisation, board chairman Advocate Martin Dinha said in line with President Mnangagwa’s demand for the revival of NRZ, the firm was taking control of its assets to derive value from them.
“There are sharks including politicians and businesspeople who were abusing our facilities. We are at war with those space barons, who were sub-letting our premises for huge sums of money while cashing a stipend to NRZ,” he said.
“Some of our employees were also receiving kickbacks from the space barons resulting in NRZ being prejudiced of potential revenue. The money lost over the years could have been used to refurbish our locomotives and go towards our wage bill.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the tour, NRZ spokesperson Mr Nyasha Maravanyika said the NRZ thrust was to clean up the real estate system.
“We have discovered that there were so many irregularities and inconsistencies in terms of managing our properties and the new board and the Minister (Joel Biggie Matiza) have said let us go back to the drawing board and make sure we put the right structures in place,” he said.
“The NRZ has taken the fight to the space barons. In July 2020, our audit team came to Harare and carried out an audit of our real estate properties, our land, farms to see how things were being done in terms of managing and realised that there was a lot of frailties.”
The audit revealed that many tenants with leases were subletting, contrary to the Railways Act.
One tenant had over 54 sub-tenants. The person was giving NRZ $3 000 but collecting over US$15 000 per month.
Said Mr Maravanyika: “We then decided it is high time that those tenants at the receiving end, deal directly with NRZ. We are not only doing it in Harare, but what we have found out here is that there is a possibility that the organisation is losing over $22 million annually.”
Mr Maravanyika said two officers from their real estate division in Harare only identified as Mr Muchembere and Mr Mungeyi, have been put on forced leave pending investigations into allegations of having directly worked with space barons.
Leotrade Company official, Mr Tanyaradzwa Zuva, said while they appreciate the move by NRZ to take charge of its real estate division, tenants were requesting a downward review of rents from the US$250 that was being demanded by space barons.
Another tenant, Mr Enock Matiza, said it was good they were now dealing directly with NRZ and not third parties.
The NRZ is a key economic enabler that helps bring down the cost of business in the country by providing efficient, reliable and affordable means of transport.