FAILURE to finalise the Ziscosteel deal has left hundreds of chronic patients in Redcliff town in limbo as they cannot afford the cost of medication and proper diet, Health and Child Welfare minister, Henry Madzorera has said.
REPORT BY WELLINGTON ZIMBOWA
Madzorera, who is also the Kwekwe senator, said the bickering in government over the takeover of Ziscosteel by India’s Essar Holdings has left thousands of residents in the town on the verge of starvation, with many others failing to access health services.
“Every minister is concerned, I am concerned and it’s unfortunate that while the involved ministries are dilly-dallying, people are starving and efforts to give proper care to the chronically ill are being derailed,” he said.
“There are chronic patients on treatment, such as those on anti-retroviral therapy who need special and consistent diet but are simply wallowing in poverty and at the end of the day it’s a sheer waste of effort in giving them the free medication.”
Madzorera said he was concerned about reported cases of people going hungry, as workers of the Redcliff-based company have gone for almost two years without salaries due to the impasse.
He said it was not only the 3 000 workers at the firm and their families who were affected but the whole of Kwekwe, as there were numerous downstream industries that relied largely on Ziscosteel. These include Lanchishire Steel, Bimco and Sables.
Plight of Ziscosteel workers worsens
A worker’s representative at the steel company said hunger was stalking most residents of Redcliff.
“We have not really enjoyed the dollarisation era, the food is there in the supermarkets but we don’t have the money,” he said.
“Workers are collapsing due to hunger at the plant and it’s really terrible. We are sometimes forced to make a handful contributions of maize-meal and vegetables to our colleagues whom we know are on special medication.”
Most households in the now ghost town of Redcliff, especially in Torwood and Rutendo suburbs, have reportedly gone without water and electricity supplies for a long time.
Former Redcliff mayor, Rodgers Chisi added his voice to the matter saying most of the residents were failing to meet basic needs such as school fees and healthcare due to the delayed revival of the local industry that mostly relies on New Zimsteel.
The new investor Essar Africa acquired a 60% stake in Ziscosteel and 80% of Buchwa Iron Mining Company for US$750 million in 2011 but the Ministry of Mines, says the deal needs to be revised as it gave the investor excessive mining rights worth billions of dollars.
As the plight of the NewZim workers worsens, it is reported that a number of students who sat for public exams were still to get their results, as schools were withholding them due to non-payment of fees.
However, Agnes Gudo, the Midlands provincial education director professed ignorance on the issue before requesting for questions to be put in writing.
The new investor had undertaken to pay off Ziscosteel’s salary backlog but later on reneged due to the impasse, leaving the workers to suffer.