Ziscosteel bankrupt, workers starve

mining_freda_rebeccaREDCLIFF - Some 4,000 residents at Zimbabwe's steel maker, Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel) are facing famine and destitution because the mining group has gone bankrupt, it has emerged.

Workers and their family members in the town of Redcliff are languishing because Zisco was paying their salaries weeks too late, and had also stopped paying their medical aid insurance fees.

Yet steel prices are at a record high on the international markets, and this company, which has looked for a suitor to pump working capital into it, is sitting atop one of the richest and consistently-producing steel veins in the world.

The Ziscosteel, a major foreign-currency earner before independence in 1980, stopped operations in 2008 at the height of an economic crisis, due to a lack of capital to re-equip its plants.

The government holds about 70 percent in Ziscosteel – once the largest integrated steelworks in the region – and had previously not been keen to sell its stake. Zisco workers have been inconsistently underpaid over the past six months.

Trade unions this week called on the banking community to support Zisco with new loans because of the “massive socio-economic impact the closure of Zisco will have on the town of Redcliff.”

Tempers flared on Friday when workers handed over a memorandum to management demanding all their wages. The workers are charging that their families were going hungry. Workers who spoke to ***The Zimbabwean on condition of anonymity said living conditions had deteriorated because they didn’t even have money to buy food.

“It is only promises and promises from the side of management and workers are very angry,” said one worker. He indicated that when the memorandum was handed over, workers nearly assaulted the acting general manager at the mine.

Zisco’s rescue has been delayed due to squabbles in Zimbabwe’s coalition government. ArcelorMittal South Africa, a unit of the world’s biggest steel maker, is one of two short listed bidders for Zisco together with Indian firm Jindal.

Post published in: Economy

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