Coal shortage cripples industry

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - Zimbabwe's manufacturing and agriculture sectors, which thrive on coal for their daily operations, are facing a critical shortage of the product forcing many to import coal from South Africa in order to survive.
The imported product costs almost 10 times more per tonne

than when secured locally.
Hwange Colliery public relations manager, Clifford Nkomo, said the colliery, which mines Zimbabwe’s vast coal deposits, was unable to verify reports that South African coal was finding its way into the Zimbabwean market. He said there were two major problems responsible for coal shortages – shortage of funds and a breakdown on the secondary crushing plant and conveyor belting systems.
He said due to the erratic wagon supplies, the colliery company had been unable to load a steady stream of wagons and time lost due to wagon shortage could not be recovered.
Nkomo told the official media that the coal mining company was owed almost $3 billion by ZESA Holdings and the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel).
Ziscosteel is currently reeling under heavy debts following massive asset stripping and looting by top government officials, including the two Vice Presidents Joice Mujuru and Joseph Msika.
ZESA Holdings owes Hwange Colliery $2 billion while Ziscosteel is in debt of $800 million to the colliery company. “This debt has been accumulating since October last year and as a result, we have been failing to viably operate owing to intermittent breakdowns of our machinery and we cannot respond quickly to breakdowns due to lack of funds,” Nkomo was quoted in the official press here.
Industrialists who spoke to The Zimbabwean said they were disappointed by the continued problems in coal supply as there seemed to be no improvement despite assurances from Hwange Colliery, and NRZ that the problem would be rectified.
Mines and Mining Development Minister Amos Midzi was said to have hurriedly flown to Hwange “to get some answers” last week.
Ziscosteel spokesperson Augustine Timbe staunchly refused to comment amid reports government has banned any form of correspondence between the press and company officials since the eruption of the Ziscogate scandal last year.
The critical coal shortage has also adversely affected the curing of tobacco, which is one of the major source of foreign currency to Zimbabwe.
Farmers spoke of a critical shortage of the washed grade coal for curing tobacco. Most tobacco farmers have started curing their tobacco, but they wanted the washed grade because they use automatic feeders.
“In the current crisis, we have resorted to using low-grade coal dust. It is absolutely unacceptable,” said a tobacco farmer who declined to be named.

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