ZISCOSTEEL’S return to full functionality may take longer than anticipated with Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha revealing that 70 percent of the machinery and equipment at the company is obsolete and needs a complete overhaul.
The Redcliff-based firm, once the largest integrated steel maker in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa, has been comatose after being run down by poor management and alleged plunder by politicians.
Hope that the company, which once employed some 5,000 workers, was raised after government managed to sell 64 percent majority shareholding to the India-based Essar group in 2011 but no progress has been made in reviving the firm.
Bimha told delegates at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress last week that the re-opening of the steelmaker, now renamed NewZim Steel, meant dismantling old buildings and aged equipment and replacing them with new machinery.
This process, Bimha said, could not be done overnight. Essar would also need to carry out human resource audit in order to make sure that they recruit people with requisite skills to run the plant.
“70 percent of the machinery is obsolete and re-opening NewZim Steel means dismantling the plant to construct a new one,” he said.
“There is need also to hunt for new skills. The plant has not been functioning for a long time and there has been theft and a lot of sabotage at the plant.”
The minister, however, said Essar was impressed with the level of skilled manpower in the country, adding that, in the next 24 months New Zim Steel would start producing liquid steel to kick-start the process of reviving the company.
“They (Essar) have started importing steel ballet so that Lancaster Steel can start operating. This will also create employment for the locals,” said Bimha.
He added that as far as government was concerned, the takeover of the company by Essar was a “done deal”.
“What is only left is a policy issue which can be discussed by management and company board.”
Bimha also said Essar would construct a 600 megawatt power plant to supply NewZim Steel.
“They will start by producing 300 megawatts for their operations and the turbines will be placed in Hwange,” said Bimha.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and Essar would also carry out exploration in Manize where a beneficiation plant would be constructed.Advertisement
The beneficiation plant would provide feedstock to NewZim Steel.
“This will definitely open up infrastructural development in Redcliff and Manize. Roads and railway will be constructed and obviously employment will be created,” said Bimha.