New Zimbabwe Steel Private Limited (formerly Ziscosteel) would struggle to reach full production at the giant steel plant as a result of a shortage of key skilled personnel, a Cabinet minister said.
The steel company ceased operating in 2008 after incurring a debt running into hundreds of millions of dollars after years of mismanagement that led to a massive exodus of the critical workforce.
Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube last week said even if all critical resources from coal to adequate power supply were availed, 100% production would not be immediately realised.
“If blast furnaces had to be fixed now, get all the funds and energy supply restored you would not get 100% production at New Zim Steel because there is no manpower to run a steel plant of that magnitude,” said Ncube.
“It is one of the factors that accounts for the lack of capacity utilisation at New Zim Steel and Essar is seeking to address it.”
Without giving figures off-hand, Ncube said key personnel such as engineers, artisans and electricians left the steelmaker during its turbulent period.
It is understood that more than 700 positions for boilermakers, electricians, electricians, and instrument and control technicians need to be filled.
Diversified Indian giant Essar Africa Holdings pledged to invest up to $750 million when it took over Ziscosteel and its subsidiary firm, Buchwa Iron and Mining Company.
The company is expected to pay all debts and appoint a new chief executive officer and board of directors within the next few weeks.
On government’s part to address the skills shortage, the minister hinted that a national policy was being worked on to lure the skilled workforce back to the country. Official figures indicate that more than 7 000 jobs would be created as the result of the revival of the firm.
At peak operating capacity, Ziscosteel produced one million tonnes of steel annually, which made it the second-largest steel producer in sub-Saharan Africa after ArcelorMittal South Africa.
Essar has indicated that it wants to increase steel production to 2,5 million tonnes in the next four years.