Essar deal not fully sealed — Ncube

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Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube said the deal between Essar Africa Holdings and the government over the complete takeover of sleeping steel giant Ziscosteel is yet to be sealed due to outstanding issues.

Ncube told journalists after meeting leaders of the workers’ union from the former Ziscosteel in Redcliff that he expected the outstanding issues to be dealt with within the next three weeks to ensure that a board for New Zimsteel was appointed so that an investment policy and work starts in ernest at the steel plant.

Workers had expressed concern over outstanding salaries which they are owed by Ziscosteel and wanted the minister to explain how payment would be effected.

They told Ncube that meetings with New Zimsteel management had been unfruitful.

“The workers are concerned about salaries and their future, but it is important to note that there is still a lot of work to be done. Essar wants guarantees that they will get uninterrupted power supplies, water and coal at the plant once they start operations. They also want tax exemptions and mineral rights.

“These things involve other ministries. The Ministry of Water and those of Energy and Finance have all signed memorandums of understanding with Essar, but what is outstanding is that with the Ministry of Mines, which has to guarantee Essar mineral rights owned by Bimco and that of Transport which has to guarantee a reliable railway.

These will hopefully be completed in the next two weeks because acceptable working documents have been drafted and await the relevant ministers’ approval,” said Ncube.

Essar is worried about the ability of National Railways of Zimbabwe to consistently deliver coal to New Zimsteel once operations start and also wants Mines minister Obert Mpofu to assure them that mineral rights owned by Bimco are transferred to them before the deal is sealed.

Ncube said salaries which Ziscosteel has been paying its workers from the past were loans accessed from Essar while final logistics are being put in place to conclude the deal.