Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
GOVERNMENT is making progress in ensuring the revival of the defunct Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco), which should be up and running at least by the end of 2021, Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said yesterday.
The Redcliff-based manufacturing giant closed shop at the height of hyper-inflation in 2008. Its demise is said to be costing the economy an average of US$1 billion annually through imports of steel and related products. This has also frustrated the steel value chain, resulting in weakening of related downstream businesses and loss of jobs.
The revival of Zisco is strategic to successful transformation of the economy under the new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. To steer progress, Cabinet has set up an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Resuscitation of Ziscosteel chaired by Dr Nzenza while a new Zisco board has already been constituted.
“The President’s key desire for our ministry is that we must revive Zisco. Given the current momentum, Ziscosteel should be up and running by the end of 2021,” she told delegates who are attending the ongoing Industry and Commerce Strategic Planning Workshop in Bulawayo.
“We will be looking at new technology and new skills, we have to bring in new investors and promote the vision to re-engage and promote local industry. Zisco will be an example in this.
“As a ministry we are making progress to ensure that Zisco is retained to its former glory, which will resultantly ensure that the country is self-sufficient on steel products eliminating the steel import bill.
“This resonates with the ministry’s National Steel Strategy, which targets a host of steel products and allied companies including Lancashire Steel.”
Dr Nzenza is on record saying enquiries from potential Chinese and Australian suitors were being received towards Zisco. This follows the collapse in 2015 of the initial Indian Essar deal and Chinese R & F US$1 billion deal in December last year. While the Government is seized with courting serious potential foreign investment into Ziscosteel, the board and management have come up with a short-term revival roadmap that targets the resuscitation of the defunct steel giant’s subsidiaries.
Acting board chairperson, Engineer Martin Manuhwa, revealed the new strategy during a recent briefing to the inter-ministerial task-force team, which visited the defunct steel plant. It is the board’s conviction that reviving the smaller companies could be a viable short-term strategy. Ziscosteel has subsidiaries like ZimChem, Lancashire Steel, and Buchwa Iron Mining Company (Bimco).
“We have done an assessment in the short-term in the Ziscosteel revival roadmap, which will begin by looking at how we can put back Bimco into its mining operations. We are currently selling waste and boulders among other things so that we can get capital to restart the operations,” said Eng Manuhwa.
He stated that while ZimChem was operating at a lower scale, there was a need to invest more so that the company operates at a larger scale. Plans are also underway to resuscitate the Zisco mills section as well as other sections for the manufacturing processes that will in turn benefit Lancashire Steel.
“The board and management are working flat out on the thrust that we revive Zisco’s subsidiaries, which are a low hanging fruit. We have the Zisco coke ovens and the ZimChem operatives, which are lucrative subsidiaries and when revived can go a long way in helping revive Ziscosteel,” said Eng Manuhwa.
“We want to put back production of lime from lime fields, we also want to resuscitate the mills section with our four rolling mills as well as the bar rod mill, which makes billets and other sections for the manufacturing process.”
The rest of the long-term revival efforts are expected to be concluded when the Government courts a serious investment partner.