INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza has announced government’s plans to resuscitate the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) in the next 12 months, more than a decade after the defunct steelmaker came to a grinding halt due to extended periods of mismanagement and corruption.
Zisco, once an industrial giant with both vertical and horizontal linkages, has been on the government’s economic revival agenda for a long time. Years of mismanagement, economic implosion and political interference have delayed plans to bring the Midlands-based steel plant back on stream.
Nzenza told The NewsHawks that Cabinet recently resolved to resuscitate the sleeping giant and this comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa froze the proposed takeover of its assets by Zimcoke pending the finalisation
of a bid by a Chinese investor in the state-owned steelmaker.
Nzenza said a Cabinet committee has been meeting on a weekly basis to discuss financing strategies, refurbishment costs and plans to court investors to revive the company.
Zisco, which once employed over 5 000 people, ceased production in 2008 at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown. Its resuscitation, according to Nzenza, would enhance Zimbabwe’s global competitiveness in industrial research, innovation and production.
“My ministry has a local policy of promoting production in our domestic market, but currently when you look at the industry, you will notice that we are importing a lot of products that can be made locally,”Nzenza said.
“Steel is one product which we need in construction, in agriculture, in motor cars and in many other areas. Currently we are importing US$1.1 billion worth of steel products into Zimbabwe yet we have got so much iron ore in this country. So to correct that, the President has asked me to chair a taskforce to ensure that everything goes accordingly. We can assure you that we will be resuscitating Ziscosteel in the next 12 months.”
A taskforce, including ministers of Finance, Energy and Mines, was constituted several months ago to deal with the revival of Zisco and is currently looking for an investor.
“We are discussing how we are going to bring in an investor. We already have interests from various local and international investors, we are hoping to get one in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Development Association for us
to start production of local steel.”
Apart from steel production, Nzenza said a five-year plan has been set to resuscitate pharmaceutical, fertiliser and leather production.
“Our local fertiliser production is very small, but what is important to note is that in the next five years we are going to be producing most of the fertiliser through Sable Chemicals. We have already started work on that,” she said.
“In pharmaceuticals, Caps is already producing some of the key drugs such as vitamin C, paracetamol and medicines for bronchitis so what we intend to do is to reduce raw materials imported by local companies for production.
“We even import gelatin and glucose ingredients from South Africa, China and all over the place, yet we can produce it locally from our cattle. So in the next five years we will be producing those ingredients to make our own medication, while we will be also exporting.”