New Zim Steel deal hangs in balance

REDCLIFF — Hundreds of workers employed by New Zim Steel might not access their salaries this month amid reports Essar Africa Holdings will suspend payment of salaries until the government seals the deal by issuing new share certificates for New Zim Steel and New Zim Minerals.

Finance minister Tendai Biti confirmed the deal was in limbo and blamed it on certain government ministers whom he said were eager to scuttle the deal for personal benefits.

“It’s a crime that Zisco is not working and l am shocked that there are people in the government and Cabinet who are still trying to scuttle the deal, they have serious PHD,( pull him down) syndromes and are determined to block the deal. Ziscosteel is a game changer in our economy,” said Biti.

Biti said it was shocking the deal was still being negotiated when Industry and Commerce minister had told Cabinet that everything was in order.

Ziscosteel workers said on Tuesday at a meeting addressed by human resources manager Dean Chikukwa they were told that salaries won’t be paid this month. This comes after information filtered in through the workers’ union that government was reneging on the New Zim minerals deal, which would have seen Essar holding 80% of iron ore reserves owned by Bimco.

A senior official at Essar Africa Firdhose Coovadia, refused to comment on the matter saying it was not company policy to respond to speculative statements on the market. He, however, said his company was making progress with regards the deal as negotiations with the government were still on-going.

“It is not our policy to comment on speculative reports. Essar continues to hold discussions with the Zimbabwe government over a number of issues relating to the Zisco transaction, and we continue to make progress. However, we would not like to comment on any specific points,” said Coovadia.

Workers at Ziscosteel who have gone for the past three months on full salaries are now in a panic mode after the meeting and fear that the dark ages which saw them going for eleven months without pay would return.

Biti said he was angered by the government’s failure to put its people first while allowing ministers to pursue personal interests.

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