Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
STEELMAKERS Zimbabwe’s subsidiary Steelbase has shut down its branch in Bulawayo to cut costs.
The company this week wound down its operations with a closedown stocktaking.
Business Chronicle visited the company’s branch in Belmont Industrial site yesterday and observed that the premises were deserted.
Steelbase sells and distributes steel products.
The firm’s branch manager Douglas Landa would not be drawn into commenting about the branch’s closure.
“I don’t have the reasons for the branch’s closure,” he said.
Steelmakers Zimbabwe general manager Alexander Johnson said: “I wouldn’t know much about the branch’s closure but I think the shutdown is more to do with low business on the market.”
At its peak, Steelbase Bulawayo branch used to employ about 40 workers but at the time of closure it was employing about 10 workers.
“Our sales are very low and this could see us soon shutting down our branches in Gweru and Masvingo, probably we’ll keep Harare and Mutare branches,” said Johnson, before referring this paper to Steelbase chief executive officer, Upendra Ulamwar.
Ulamwar said his company was going through a restructuring exercise which would see workers at the Bulawayo branch being transferred to other branches.
“It’s not that the company is closing down as such but it’s a restructuring exercise that will see the workers being transferred to other branches. The Bulawayo branch had about seven workers,” he said.
Some of the former workers at the Bulawayo branch said they were not told of the reasons behind the branch’s closure.
“We don’t know why the company has closed down. We were only told that the branch will be carrying out a closedown stock take culminating in the branch’s operations winding down. What pains us is that we’re just told to go home without our dues. Since January we haven’t been paid and we’re going home empty-handed,” said one of the workers.
Another former employee said: “The company has been struggling to pay us and as things stand we’re going with outstanding salaries backdating to January”.
In January, Steelmakers Zimbabwe abandoned the export market due to the firming of the greenback against regional currencies making it uncompetitive for the company to keep exporting.
The steel producer manufactures close to 36,000 tonnes of steel per annum, which is converted to various shapes to cater for the engineering, agriculture, motoring, mining construction and manufacturing sectors.
Steelmakers Zimbabwe has also abandoned its expansion plans, which if implemented would see its sponge iron plant in Masvingo increasing output tenfold from its present 30,000 tonnes per year.