BULAWAYO residents yesterday expressed mixed feeling over the government’s assumption of the Ziscosteel $500 million debt, with some saying an audit should be conducted first while others said the process should be expedited.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI/ALEXIS SIBANDA
Contributing during public hearings on the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill 2018 in Bulawayo yesterday, residents said government should first conduct an audit to find out how the debt came about before burdening taxpayers.
The Bill seeks to facilitate the resuscitation of Zisco following its closure in 2008, after it accumulated a $494 817 324 debt.
In an interview with Southern Eye, Florence Ndlovu, a member of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) said the government should take the lead in economic resuscitation.
“They should do a debt audit and ensure that they reduce the bill by checking on the non-core assets that they could sell to reduce the bill. They should do that in a way that is not going to put us into problems again,” she said.
She said most of the parastatals were having problems in financial administration, so they should put measures in place to curb mismanagement of funds.
“The government should put in place mechanisms to prevent this problem in the near future for parastatals because Ziscosteel is not the only parastatal that is having problems,” she said.
“The Constitution is clear in section 300 that the Parliament has the role to manage the country’s debt so it is very important that before they take the already impoverished taxpayer’s money they should look at other ways of settling the bill rather than impoverishing the already impoverished Zimbabwean.”
She added that the Bill should not be assumed.
“We should liquidate the whole company and pay out the debtors and start a new era because if the government is able to pay $500m, it means there is hope in Ziscosteel so why not sell it like it is if it is that valuable. You cannot invest $500m in something that is not valuable,” Ndlovu said.
Other residents said the Bill should be expedited for the benefit of workers and the economy at large.
“As much as I like this Bill, yes it should be passed and expedited, but my problem is, we are having two things here that is the welfare of ex-workers and secondly, the Ziscosteel itself as a company. Which one are we looking at first?” National Employment Council Engineering designated agent, Edson Mlambo, told Southern Eye in an interview.
“People are dying, they are struggling to make ends meet, but we are still waiting for the Bill to sail through. Even the government can chip in right now and take care of the former employees needs. Yes we want it to be rescued because if Ziscosteel comes to life, it means all engineering companies would also come to life,” he said.
He said the government should prioritise former workers who had gone for years without their dues .
“Let’s do something for the workers before the Bill sails through,” he said.
In an interview, chairperson of the Budget and Finance Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, David Chapfika, said the majority of the people across the country were accepting the Bill.
“By and large, I think people are accepting that the debt must be assumed by the State because of the benefits that will accrue to steel industry, to Zisco former employees and to future employees, to the steel manufacturing sector and the downstream businesses. Yes, there are dissenting voices here and there, but by and large the majority of the people are saying the Bill must be supported,” he said.