Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO-based engineering firm, Zeco Engineering, is in talks with an Indonesian investor, Inka Limited, over a strategic deal that will see the country’s sole rail wagons manufacturer resuming production before the end of the year.
Zeco Engineering is a subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company, Zeco Holdings, while Inka is the national rail locomotive and rolling stock manufacturer for the Indonesian Railways.
On Thursday Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Raj Modi, ZimCoke consultant Mr Eddie Cross as well as Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) executives toured the engineering factory in Bulawayo.
Zeco Engineering chief executive officer Mr Harold Madziwo told the delegation that Indonesian investors were interested in producing wagons in Bulawayo.
“Zeco is the sole producer of wagons in Zimbabwe and this is why they (delegation) came to us. We took them around our workshops and they were very impressed with the facilities we have here.
“Unfortunately, our investors did not make it as they were held up somewhere but we hope they will be able to visit us soon because our plan is to resume production of wagons before the end of the year,” he said.
After their tour, a meeting was convened between Zeco management and the visiting team at the firm’s premises. Under the proposed framework, Government through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, is facilitating the deal.
The interventions are expected to help revitalise engineering firms and other downstream industries. Before it ceased producing wagons some years back, Zeco Engineering was producing rolling stock for Zisco, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Beitbridge-Bulawayo Railway and local mining houses.
It was also supplying the regional export market. Mr Madziwo said they were looking forward to producing 300 wagons for ZimCoke as well as the local and export market once his company resumes the manufacturing of rolling stock.
“There are quite a number of wagons that we must produce for ZimCoke. We have some old Zisco wagons, which we were rehabilitating, unfortunately, we were not able to conclude that order because that is when Zisco ceased operations,” he said.
The country’s largest integrated steel manufacturer, Zisco closed down at the height of hyperinflation in 2008 and Government is working towards resuscitating operations at the Redcliff-based steel plant. Mr Madziwo said they were excited about the deal, which is set to go a long way in rejuvenating the firm, which is operating at between 15 and 20 percent capacity.
Through its fabrication division, the firm is producing a variety of structural steelworks, among them transmission towers, material handling systems and structural steel frame buildings. The erection division also installs steel structures and commissions processing plant and equipment.
“This deal is going to create a lot of jobs for Bulawayo and we are all excited about it. To us it’s more like the giant is awakening. The whole proposal is going to bring in more stability here at Zeco and is also going to create a lot of downstream benefits because we also have companies, which we work with,” said Mr Madziwo.
“I would want to appreciate the work being done by CZI, all this is happening because of CZI and we have been pushing and they have been looking for investors on behalf of Bulawayo companies. They are doing fantastic work.”
In a separate interview, Deputy Minister Modi said they were impressed by the Zeco Engineering workshop.
He said Government wanted to see the company resuming production of wagons as soon as possible which he said was critical for the revival of Bulawayo companies.
“At the moment we are importing wagons and if Zeco starts manufacturing here we will be exporting and this will create employment for locals.
“This is one of the facilities we have in the country which should earn the country the much needed foreign currency,” he said.
Mr Cross said their engagement with Zeco was part of efforts to assist the company resume production of wagons for the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
“We were specifically dealing today with private sector involvement in the assembly of railway wagons for NRZ and for the region. The purpose of this visit was also to see the potential of Zeco and the Deputy Minister (Modi) is taking charge of this operation. He is responsible for this from the Government side,” he said.
“From the private sector’s side, we are looking at a foreign investor coming in from the Far East (Indonesia) and we are looking at refurbishing this plant and taking it back to production as soon as possible.” — @okazunga