The main reason President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania visited Zambia was to ‘help’ president Edgar Lungu ‘focus’ on beneficial projects.
People close to Lungu tell the Watchdog that the Tanzanian leader questioned Lungu on Zambia’s priorities on rail lines.
The Tanzania governme
nt is concerned that Lungu wants to borrow more money to invest in constructing rail lines to Angola when Zambia is failing to maintain the existing TAZARA. Tanzania Zambia Rail line is jointly owned by Zambia and Tanzania but the two countries have been failing to manage the project though, it is believed that Zambia contributes very little hence the problems.
A few weeks ago, Lungu visited Angola and due to excitement of seeing nice trains in Angolan bushes, he pledged to construct any a rail line from Zambia to somewhere in Angola. Talking about the Benguela railway line when he was in Angola, Lungu said:
“We are also looking forward to joining the railway line into the North-Western Province directly and elsewhere in Angola, joining into Mongu so that we can integrate our economy.”
But this statement stirred interest in Tanzania prompting the visit of the country’s leader.
So, when Kikwete visited Zambia, he had one thing on his mind and said it when an opportunity presented itself:
“We want to make TAZARA viable. We discussed many other areas of cordial relations. Before TAZARA, the road between Tanzania and Zambia was “hell run”.” Kikwete said during a banquet open to the media.
It is believed that during the private meeting, Kikwete told Lungu not to move the old boundaries or neglect projects created by founding fathers to pursue fantasies like creating rail lines while failing to maintain exiting ones.
Kikwete reminded Lungu that when Zambia’s economy was squeezed due to fighting in Southern Rhodesia during Ian Smith’s unilateral Declaration of independence, Tanzania allowed Zambia to transport its exports and imports through its territory.
Tanzania and South Africa are Zambia’s major training partners.
They share one of the busiest borders, between Nakonde on the Zambian side and Tunduma on the Tanzanian side.
Most of the Zambia’s imports, including crude oil and finished petroleum products, come in through the Great North Road, which links the two countries.
While it is possible to borrow money and construct a rail line to Angola via Kasai forest, it is likely to be just another white elephant like Tazara and the one in Chipata with little economic benefits to the people. Instead of generating revenue to the government, such projects are actually costs to national coffers as they depend on government grants.