INDUSTRY and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, says the closure of steel giant, Ziscosteel, has forced the country to spend about US$1,1 billion every year importing steel and steel products.
She made the remarks in her keynote address during the inter-ministerial committee tour of the Ziscosteel plant in Redcliff on Thursday.
Dr Nzenza said this was a signal that the revival of Ziscosteel should be a top priority for the economy.
“The revival of Ziscosteel is vital to the revival of the steel industry as it unlocks the whole steel value chain. I trust that we all agree that the steel industry is the backbone of the industry as it provides raw materials to the agriculture, construction, mining and transport industry among others,” she said.
“Currently the country is importing about US$1,1 billion worth of steel and steel products per annum. This shows that the revival of the company should be number one priority for the government.”
Dr Nzenza said Government was gravely concerned about the ‘astronomic’ figure that is used to import steel yet all the required resources were locally available.
“We are importing steel from Turkey and other countries, yet we have all the requisites to be producing our own steel for exports.
“As a result, Government is more serious than before on the revival of Ziscosteel as we cannot continue losing such huge sums of money to importing something we can produce on our own. It does not paint a good picture for our country,” she said.
Gone are the days when Government would entertain non-committed investors, said the minister as she expressed frustration over false starts in transforming the defunct steel giant.
“We have no time to sit around a table with investors who are not serious about walking on the road of transforming Zimbabwe with us. It is very easy for us thorough due diligence process to know who is with us and who is not.
“So, I would like to assure you that as Government, together with board and management, we are able to root out those investors who are not serious,” said Dr Nzenza.
She expressed concern over increased cases of looting of material and vandalism at the plant.
“It is disheartening to see the level of vandalism and theft that has been taking place at this plant. The plant has been idle for more than a decade now and has been deteriorating as you all witness.
“In order to successfully revive Zisco it is critical that we curtail loss of assets and unchecked debt accumulation. I, therefore, call upon Zisco management to come up with specific measures to curtail loss of assets and debt accumulation and share with Government,” she said.
Dr Nzenza said that Zisco must focus on optimizing the reliability of its business and production assets.
“We are supporting Zisco’s endeavor to put in place an asset performance management system to enable the company to move to proactive, condition-based approach to production, maintenance optimizing asset reliability and driving business results.
“This will optimize quick wins like limestone deposits and dumps. The operations of the subsidiaries like Lancashire Steel, Zim Chem and Buchwa Iron Mining Company (BIMCO),” said the minister.
Speaking at the same occasion, Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services Minister, Dr Jefferson Muswere, said there was need to focus on the revival of Ziscosteel with more zeal. He said it was time for action not words.
“It is now time for us to walk the talk, we have been talking for a long time and it is now time for us to act. We should put our heads together so that we achieve this goal,” he said.
Dr Muswere said technology should play a key role in the revival of the company and the wider economy.
“ICT will bring efficiency and cut down on costs and also ensure effective management of the entire assets and improving on transparency. Government is committed to the revival of Ziscosteel as it is the only company that can help resuscitate the economy almost single headedly,” he said.
Government is still in talks with Hong Kong based investors R and F with the hopes of them helping resuscitate the company that folded operations in 2008. During its peak, Zisco employed about 5000 people.