INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Mike Bimha yesterday told Parliament that five companies from China, India and within Africa had expressed an interest in investing in Zimbabwe’s steel manufacturing industry.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Addressing members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce, where he had been called to speak on the resuscitation of Ziscosteel, Bimha said Indian firm, Essar Africa Holdings was no longer interested in the comatose steel manufacturer.
“We did everything and tried to engage Essar, but they remained quiet, and the prices of steel and iron also went down and they then said the project will no longer be viable,” he said.
“As a result, we then decided we call it quits with Essar and look for other investors, and we sent a team to do due diligence on five companies from China, India and within Africa that are interested in investing in steel business in Zimbabwe.”
MPs then expressed worry over vandalisation of equipment at Ziscosteel and its subsidiary, Lancashire Steel.
Committee chairperson, Edmond Mhere said during their visit to the companies in Kwekwe and Redcliff, they discovered there were some people involved in illicit sale of scrap metal inside the firms’ premises.
“During our visit to Lancashire Steel, we found that 23,18 tonnes of scrap metal were sold for only $1 980 and it means there is a problem because that is as good as selling maize,” he said.
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“When we asked the manager in charge, he denied that there was illicit selling of steel, but the committee suspected that there was vandalism of equipment, which ended up being sold as scrap.”
Bimha said the possibility of plunder and vandalism of equipment was high, given that workers at the two companies have gone unpaid for several months and were no longer committed to securing the assets.
Highfield East legislator, Eric Murai (MDC-T) said when the committee toured Ziscosteel, they found worn out equipment with rust, which he described as “rotten”.
The government has engaged a private property evaluator, Dawn Properties, to compile a comprehensive report on the state of assets at Lancashire Steel plant.
Bimha said they were also considering resuscitating Lancashire Steel and Zimchem because their equipment does not need as much capital, as that needed to resuscitate Ziscosteel.
He said Zimchem will be useful for the supply of road construction materials for the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway.