I believe the wordsmiths among us have exhausted all the adjectives that could aptly capture the desperation of the Ziscosteel community.
Sunday View by Conelia Mabasa
I am sure the way the community scrounges for a living on a daily basis can claim its own space when government’s crimes against humanity are recorded.
Moral decay and social ills rule supreme as girl children are turning into daring, shameless sluts. Some mothers have turned to prostitution, with some industrious ones harvesting coke breeze in the dumpsites in order to survive.
Boys have taken to petty theft and illegal gold-panning. Everybody seems to accept the obtaining status quo with just a shrug of the shoulders.
The people have been pushed to the brink. The men, shoulders hunched, go fishing in shallow ponds with smelly polluted water.
They have pawned what pieces of scrap metal they had at nearby farms just to put food on the table. Their situation is so bad they celebrate when they are paid US$50 after months on end without pay.
Most households in Torwood, Redcliff, where the majority of the workforce resides, have been disconnected of both water and electricity, yet they nurse the hope that maybe they will live to see the conveyor belt in motion again, the coke ovens heating up and the blast furnaces spewing steel.
They have seen many false starts. The workers have been told a lot of stories about New Zim Steel’s impending opening.
During the subsistence of the Government of National Unity when Welshman Ncube was Industry minister they celebrated the unveiling of a new investor; an Indian steel giant — Essar Africa Holdings — a grand occasion presided over by President Robert Mugabe himself.
It’s been three years ever since the president visited, but Ziscosteel, rechristened New Zim Steel, has been as quiet as a graveyard.
Reports this week say Mike Bimha, the Industry and Commerce minister says Zisco revival talks are being speeded up, adding that it might take a year to see something happening at New Zim Steel.
That must have been the most depressing news ever for the community. They cannot tighten their belts any further because they have reached their wits’ end.
The US$750 million deal with a condition that the investor takes over government debt has taken too long to be concluded.
While policymakers and deal-breakers move from one office to the other, while bureaucracy consumes them, could they spare a thought for the families waiting for their breadwinners to be relevant again in the family set up?
Nobody seems to want to address them and put them in the picture save for what they read in the press.
It is a fact that some of them will be rendered redundant just as some machines are already obsolete, even vandalised, but they are just waiting for the powers-that-be to decide on their fate and for the new employer to decide if they still fit the new setup. It must be the longest wait ever with loads of uncertainty.
For a deal that has been held back by issues to do with ownership, rights to ore reserves and government debt, mere assurance that talks are going to be speeded up does not inspire hope for the workers.
In a world where big businesses are signing billion dollar deals, this one seems too small to warrant years of just negotiations. Only last week Mali and China signed deals worth US$11 billion!