Government is working on modalities to resurrect the “sleeping” iron and steel giant Ziscosteel within the first 100 days of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidency.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Addressing chiefs in the Midlands capital, Gweru, on Saturday, Mnangagwa said his government has plans to ensure that Ziscosteel became operational within 100 days since assuming power.
“Ziscosteel and Shabanie Mines are part of our 100-day plan and they should be open within that period, we are working on it,” he said.
The iron and steel manufacturer which, at its peak, had a 5 000-strong workforce, officially closed its doors in 2016 and laid off what was left of its workers without paying them terminal benefits. Most of its infrastructure, equipment and spares have either been vandalised or looted over the years of the company’s redundancy.
The steel company workers’ union leader, Cheneso Jack was reportedly fired after accusing management of looting close to $1 million worth of spares and stock at the firm.
Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development minister Mike Bimha said all the work to ensure that Ziscosteel will open within the 100 days had been done.
“I don’t want to disclose much information at the moment, but to say it is within our 100-day work plan to ensure that Ziscosteel is open,” he said.
The company is saddled with a $400 million debt, which includes workers’ terminal benefits, pensions, wages and salaries.
Chinese firm R&F is expected to pour in $1 billion into Ziscosteel, an investment which is expected to change the fortunes of Redcliff town, according to deputy mayor Vincent Masiiwa.
“If that investment comes through, it will change the fortunes of the council and that of our people who have been unemployed for a very long time. Some have been going to work, but not getting a salary,” he said.
Ziscosteel’s revival will trigger growth in Hwange Colliery Company Limited, National Railways of Zimbabwe and other suppliers.
The steel giant has over the years caught the eye of investors across the world, but the multimillion dollar deals have fallen through due to various reasons ranging from bureaucratic bungling to corruption.
In 2006, Indian firm Global Steel Holdings Limited courted Ziscosteel and was to inject $400m in a rehabilitate, operate and transfer arrangement.
However, an investigation by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade revealed the deal would disadvantage Zimbabwe.
In 2011, Essar Africa Holdings’s bid to take-over the moribund parastatal, in a deal worth $750 million also hit a brick-wall due to bickering in the inclusive government.