AN air of uncertainty still pervades the Redcliff community a week after workers at New Zimsteel received a surprise three months’ cash medical cover and a term’s school fees from new shareholder Essar Africa Holdings.
The workers said they were yet to believe that their decade-long life of scavenging for food and clothes was coming to an end.
Workers’ committee chairperson Benedict Moyo confirmed the windfall, but said the workers were still apprehensive.
“We got one term worth of fees deposited in our accounts from Essar and three months worth of medical cover. This is a positive move, but workers are still in the woods,” Moyo said.
“We have over seven terms in outstanding school fees and workers are not yet certain that this time, the long-dormant chimneys will soon come back to life and billow out smoke as they used to do over 10 years ago,” he said.
Essar Africa Holdings and the workers recently struck a deal which should see the workers get three months’ worth of salaries in a once-off payment.
“The money will be a three-month termination of contract from Ziscosteel to New Zimsteel and thereafter, the issue of outstanding salaries which stretch back to two years will then be paid in a manner that will be agreed,” Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Workers Union chairman David Munjeri said.
Two years ago, President Robert Mugabe in the company of then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, officially opened New Zimsteel in Redcliff, raising hopes of over 3 000 workers and their families.
However, the prolonged deal almost flopped when government withheld issuing New Zim minerals with a mining rights licence.
New Zimsteel chief executive officer Vinod Arora said: “New Zimsteel is now awake and it will be working. There is no going back.”
At its peak, the continent’s former leading iron and steel maker used to employ over 10 000 people, but the workers’ register now only has slightly above 3 000 employees who have endured a decade-long life of scavenging for basic needs following the company’s closure.