Kwekwe — Passing through the once imposing nerve centre of Zimbabwean economy — Ziscosteel — one would be forgiven for thinking they are entering a graveyard; the silence here is so loud it can’t be ignored.
Report by By Blessed Mhlanga
The few employees who still mill around the dilapidated structures do so aimlessly, they could well be undertakers slowly burying the shell which was once the pride of the nation and a source of livelihood for a population of over 100 000 people in Redcliff and Kwekwe.
Sifanjani Mpofu, a plant attendant at Ziscosteel for 23 years, has not received a meaningful salary for a cumulative 20 months. He painted a picture of a gloomy and bleak future saying he has no hope of ever seeing the machines, blast furnaces and coke ovens coming to life again.
“We are still coming to work because we have nowhere else to go but all hope of ever seeing Ziscosteel work again has disappeared like morning mist,” he says.
Mpofu has since sent his wife and children to their rural home in Silobela to till the land and try to earn a living but with the poor rains that have characterised four consecutive planting seasons, his family now relies on food donations.
He joins hundreds of other workers who are debt ridden and can no longer afford electricity in their homes or to pay their water bills which have ballooned in the case of Mpofu to US$700.
Zesa’s move to install prepaid meters now means most homes in Torwood will be without electricity since most of them cannot afford to pay.
Ziscosteel at its peak used to produce over 50 000 tonnes of prime iron and steel and employed close to 5 000 full-time employees and several hundreds of others downstream.
No production has been recorded since 2009; and where there used to be smoke now lies spider webs; where fire used to burn 24-hours a day, rats have made barrows.
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Welshman Ncube has blamed Zanu PF, especially the ministry of mines for the stalling of the Essar deal.
“The ministry of mines has been shifting goal posts everytime we want to seal the deal, they are the major reason why it has not been concluded,” said Ncube.