The recent announcement that the $1 billion Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) project is on ice is sad news especially for people in the Midlands Province who had pinned their hopes on the revival of the giant steel manufacturer.
The project is on ice pending Government and the Chinese investor R and F reconciling a number of issues underpinning the deal according to Industry and Commerce Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu.
He said Government was waiting for a response from the investor on a number of issues that needed clarification.
Minister Ndlovu said Government was seeking a mutually beneficial deal over the valued asset that has been set back several years due to financial and operational issues.
“There was an old standing agreement but we were just working on making sure all the parties understand the terms,” said Minister Ndlovu.
The deal was sealed during the old dispensation of former president Mr Robert Mugabe. It entailed the revival of the Redcliff-based steel manufacturing company by the Chinese firm R and F which is supposed to invest $1 billion.
The defunct steel giant used to anchor economic activities in the Midlands province and beyond as it had many downstream industries in the manufacturing sector.
It is for this reason that we want to implore Government to prioritise the revival of Zisco as it works towards turning around the economy.
The revival of Zisco, as rightly noted by Minister Ndlovu, is taking longer than expected hence the need for Government to push hard to conclude negotiations as soon as possible under its fresh conditions.
What is, however, worrying is that Government seems to be discovering shortcomings of Zisco deals after signing agreements with potential investors. Are our technocrats who are supposed to advise Government incompetent or corrupt?
It is our fervent hope that this time around we have honest and competent technocrats who will not mislead Government as what has happened in the past.
When fully operational, the Redcliff-based steel manufacturer, is expected to narrow the trade deficit by $350 million per year.
The company is also expected to be the single largest foreign currency earner with annual exports of $1 billion projected. The revival of Zisco which was once
Africa’s biggest integrated steel manufacturer is expected to boost other firms such as Hwange Colliery Company, National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and many other downstream industries.
The company folded operations in 2008 and 5 000 workers lost their jobs. In 2011, India’s Essar Group had agreed to buy 54 percent of Zisco’s shares in a deal worth $750 million. The deal, however, collapsed in 2015 following disagreements over iron ore claims.
The Midlands community is therefore looking forward to the resumption of operations at Zisco.
The revival of Zisco will breathe new life to Redcliff town and the nearby Kwekwe City which will benefit from many downstream industries likely to be established.
Zisco used to be one of the biggest employers in the Midlands province and is expected to regain this status in few years to come once it resumes production.