Transport Minister Dr Harrison Mwakyembe has asked TAZARA general manager Abdallah Shekimweri to resign on his own accord even before their scheduled meeting on Monday to explain poor performance in rehabilitating coaches for a city commuter train project.
The minister made this proposal and expressed his intention to remove the general manager if he fails to go on his own, having noticed not just the bad performance but failure of the TAZARA management to pay special allowances to workers to work hard on the project.
When the minister made a surprise visit to the main TAZARA workshop in the city, after citing TRL workshops where progress on the project was impressive, the management failed to explain why the workers have not been paid those special allowances.
“I don’t want to be blamed. Shekimweri is old enough to resign and I want him to resign peacefully but if he will force me I will chase him out. I want him to tell me where he has taken the money for workers’ allowance,” he said.
Preparations for commuter passenger train services in Dar es Salaam were progressing well both on the side of the Tanzania Railways Co. Ltd (TRL) but the situation was not sound in the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA).
The minister observed in his visit at TRL that the work was proceeding as planned and seven train wagons among the 14 required to be fielded by the company have already been repaired.
The project by the ministry, scheduled to start in October in the city, was earlier anticipated to commence with 28 wagons operated by the two railway companies and used as a pilot project to transport commuters along the designated railway line stretches.
Ibrahim Kapenta, the TRL engineer for commuter train services project told the minister when visiting his workshop site that they have been working hard in order to finish the remaining wagons by early October.
When the minister visited TAZARA premises he was disappointed at the slow pace of preparations for the wagons as he found only two out of 14 wagons already in place. He has however asked the firm’s general manager to give specific reasons for this delay.
TAZARA General Manager Abdulah Shekimweri is set to meet the minister in his office on Monday for clarification regarding the bad performance, since the ministry had already issued money for the project one month ago.
When Dr Mwakyembe asked the workshop manager Eng. Gizbert Sambora on why they did not pay the money to their workers, and in his reply he noted that “they were now discussing on how to settle their payments” he said that the procurement system had caused the delay of paying allowances to the workers.
On their side, workers who were commissioned to work on the train wagons at the workshop complained before Dr. Mwakyembe that since they started working they had never been paid their allowances as per their contract agreement.
Mwanahamisi Juma, one of the workers who was found welding an iron box could not control her temper on seeing the minister, and she immediately stopped working and started narrating their sufferings, saying that they had no motivation at all bearing the fact that they are working in an unpredictable environment.
However she assured the minister that if they had been paid the work would have already been close to being finished, well before October. Other workers disclosed to the minister that they are faced with many challenges, including failing to pay their salaries on time.
Apart from the salary and the allowances, the company does not care for their NSSF deduction dues which they said have not been submitted to the social security agency for the last ten years.
In his visit to the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) Dr Mwakyembe found that the railway line which will be used by machines to unload freight luggage from the ship at the port is already placed and the luggage unloading machine is expected to be delivered at the end of this month.
Recently Dr Mwakyembe told the National Assembly in Dodoma that train services would ply between Ubungo Maziwa and Stesheni as well as to Mwakanga and Kurasini areas in the city.
The service will start with two trains which would offer services during peak hours, with one starting at Stesheni and another one at Ubungo. They will make six-stops along the route and each train will have six coaches, he had affirmed.