ZIMBABWE is losing up to US$1.1 billion annually in steel imports due to the closure of the state-owned steelmaker, Ziscosteel in Redcliff, a cabinet minister has revealed.
Industry Minister Sekai Nzenza confirmed this during a tour of Ziscosteel plant with the inter-ministerial committee Thursday.
The iron and steel manufacturer which, at its peak, had a 5 000-strong workforce, officially closed its doors in 2016 and laid off what was left of its workers without paying them terminal benefits.
Nzenza said following the closure of Ziscosteel, the country was losing over US$1 billion in steel imports.
“I trust that we all agree that the steel industry is the backbone of the industry as it provides raw materials to agriculture, construction, mining, and transport industry among others,” said Nzenza.
“Currently, the country is importing about US$1.1 billion worth of steel and steel products per annum.”
However, the minister said it remained government’s top priority in resuscitating Ziscosteel’s operations.
Nzenza also raised concerns that equipment and machinery at the giant plant were being stripped and vandalised by local residents and former employees.
She said the newly constituted Ziscosteel board was expected to tackle the issue of asset stripping, outstanding debts, asset register, security, identification of a partner, and strategic planning.
“In order to successfully revive Ziscosteel, it is critical that we curtail the loss of assets and unchecked debt accumulation.
“I am informed that Ziscosteel is currently working on strategic and business plans with a view to remodel the industry by building a business case that attracts investment, restores competitiveness, and builds capacity throughout the value chain of the iron and steel industry in Zimbabwe,” added Nzenza.
In his campaign trail ahead of the 2018 presidential election, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to resurrect the “sleeping” iron and steel giant within the first 100 days of his getting into office.
“Ziscosteel and Shabanie Mines are part of our 100-day plan and they should be open within that period, we are working on it,” the president said then while addressing chiefs from Midlands province.
Mnangagwa has been in office for over two years now.