Stir The Pot : Zisco: Reawakening of a giant but …

Ziscosteel plant

By Paidamoyo Muzulu

ZISCOSTEEL, the redundant giant integrated steelmaker based in Redcliff, is set to come back online after decades of inactivity. The development is a result of Kuvimba Mining House (KMH) getting the tender to resuscitate the plant, but the process is riddled with opaqueness.

The announcement was made in a Cabinet briefing on Tuesday but was sketchy on details.

This is a company that is at the heartbeat of the survival of Redcliff and Kwekwe municipalities.

In other words, it is the pillar that holds the key to development of the twin municipalities.

It is no secret that ZiscoSteel has been on the market since 2009 during the inclusive government era.

The steelmaking company was then sold to Essar, an Indian company, for billions but the deal was reversed under unclear circumstances.

However, speculation in the corridors of power was rife that the problem was on sharing the kickbacks from the billion-dollar investments among the ministers then involved.

Essar has a track record in steelmaking and is a world renowned company.

This could on paper have been  a very good deal for the country with a company conversant in steel manufacturing and ready markets.

A decade later, 2022, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, ZiscoSteel was snapped up by a two-year-old company whose experience is in gold, nickel and chrome mining.

We are told government is the majority shareholder in KMH.

KMH was handpicked ahead of nine other firms that had put in bids for ZiscoSteel.

As commentator Kudzai Mutisi  precisely puts it: “Government searched for an investor and government found government to be the best investor to resuscitate ZiscoSteel. So government was searching for itself all along. It’s good to see government finding itself after a thorough search.”

Questions arise on which nine other companies did put in bids for ZiscoSteel? Which other three were shortlisted before KMH was awarded the tender?

Without this information being put out to the public, speculation will continue to swirl that KMH was favoured for one reason — that its bid was fronted by those close to the corridors of power.

It also remains of interest that if, indeed, the agreement was sealed and signed, what are the timelines for its implementation?

Further, did KMH get the Chivhu iron ore mining deposits and Buchwa Iron Ore Mine as part of the deal?

ZiscoSteel has a legacy debt of over US$200 million? Is this why there was talk of debt assumption by the State to give KMH a clean slate to start from? And finally, how much did KMH pay in the deal.

These are serious questions that should be clarified and debated robustly in Parliament.

Without such a debate, one is tempted to agree with Naomi Klein in her book; The Shock Doctrine and Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

In the seminal book, she argues that during pandemics, governments implement radical economic restructuring and privatisation that would not ordinarily be implemented during normal times.

The “Zimbabwe open for business” mantra should be accompanied by transparency and accountability by the government. It is an old adage that action speaks louder than words, hence the Zanu PF administration should be short on talk and long on action.

If tenders continue to be awarded murkily like what has happened in the last five years, international capital will remain scared and we will continue receiving money from those who don’t care about human rights, labour rights and environmental rights. It will feed on the perception that Zimbabwe is a mafia State.

KMH takeover of ZiscoSteel has given Zimbabweans a window to what the building of an oligarchy is like and the trend under the “new dispensation” will be like.

  • Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.