COMMENT: We want Zisco to resume work now

The Chronicle

It was with great delight that we read yesterday about the progress being made towards revival of steel maker, Zisco.

The Government-owned Redcliff-based company collapsed in 2008 under the weight of mismanagement, mounting debts and lack of capital.

Before then, Zisco was Africa’s largest steelworks north of the Limpopo.

A number of initiatives to get the steel manufacturer back in business have failed.

However, Dr Farai Karonga, Zisco Group chief executive officer told us that they have shortlisted companies from which one would be picked to resuscitate the giant.

“— we have concluded the adjudication process and forwarded the names to Government and we await Cabinet approval,” he said.

The Government started the latest search for investment into Zisco in April last year.

In their expressions of interest, bidders were required to submit information on their financial performance and position, attaching a three-year audited financial statement and their ownership structures.

Thereafter, bids were received from seven prospective investors and one of them would be selected to get Zisco back to life.

The conclusion of the adjudication process is a milestone for which we commend the Zisco board, Dr Karonga and his management team.

We are optimistic that they conducted the work in a professional, transparent and thoroughgoing manner and whoever Cabinet eventually picks to partner the Government in running Zisco would have the capacity to do so.

Zisco board and management have played their part, we now look forward to Cabinet’s opinion after which a statement would be made on the winning bid.

We want Zisco to resume work now.

It was one of the most important pillars of this economy as the sole miner of iron, manufacturer and distributor of steel.

It was probably the single largest client for Hwange Colliery Company Limited, buying huge amounts of coal to heat its furnaces that smelt iron.

Also, it must have been the single largest client for the National Railways of Zimbabwe which hauled enormous amounts of coal from Hwange to Redcliff. Zisco also employed thousands.

However, without Zisco, the country has struggled, spending scarce foreign currency importing steel.

It is estimated that the country imported steel worth US$129 million in 2020, mainly from South Africa.

More should have been spent last year as economic activity, and demand for steel, continues to recover.

A country with as much iron ore deposits and the basic infrastructure as exists at Zisco and its subsidiaries must not import steel.

Therefore, all stakeholders must work hard to get the furnaces back on at Zisco.

Zisco is a remarkable asset which has attracted much investor interest.

In 2011, Essar Africa Holdings, a unit of India’s Essar Group showed interest to invest US$750 million into the company.

Regrettably, differences cropped up resulting in the collapse of the deal four years later.

Three years ago R & F of China tabled a US$1 billion bid but it also didn’t see the light of the day.

We are confident that this time around, a deal would be sealed as soon as possible for Zisco to resurrect.

The Second Republic has, in the four years it has been in office, developed a record for hard work.

It has been instrumental in not only reviving countless dormant projects but also starting and completing new ones.

Lake Gwayi-Shangani, Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Chirundu Road, Marovanyati and Kunzvi dams, Zupco, Shamva Gold Mine, Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme and multiple school and health centre building projects in various parts of the country come to mind.

The past four years have shown we have a Government that works, and works hard; a Government that launches and finishes projects, not one that is all too happy to just break ground for projects and immediately forgetting about them.

We have no doubt that Zisco would be among the next large projects that President Mnangagwa and his Government will see to fruition.

That will take some time, we must acknowledge, a huge sum of money, immense skills and dedication.

However, the winning bidder should be liquid and experienced enough for the task.

Skills and dedication are there.

Also, demand for steel locally and in the region is as inexhaustible as that for diesel or petrol; as that for maize meal.

So whatever pain would be endured, whatever time would be spent, whatever money would be spent in reviving Zisco would pay in the near future.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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