HARARE – Masango Matambanadzo, the Zanu PF MP for Kwekwe, has castigated Cabinet ministers for neglecting Ziscosteel workers since the closure of the company five years ago.
Matambanadzo made the remarks during a hearing on the parliamentary portfolio committee on Industry and Commerce on Wednesday. The committee is chaired by Zanu PF MP Ray Kaukonde and was receiving oral evidence from the parent ministry and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) leadership.
Matambanadzo asked Abigail Shonhiwa, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Industry and Commerce, whether her portfolio was concerned with the welfare of the workers at Ziscosteel.
“We saw on TV several cabinet ministers rushing to Hwange to inspect the death of the elephants, but yet at Ziscosteel a lot people are dying every day because they are not getting any money for buying medication or because of hunger as they have not being paid for past five years,” Matambanadzo said.
“We have not seen any government minister or official at Zisco. Does your ministry care about the welfare of workers at Zisco as over 2 000 workers have died within 36 months?”
Shonhiwa said she was aware of the problems at Zisco, including non-payment of salaries and said her ministry was working hard to address the situation. She said they were hoping to re-open the firm before the end of the year.
“I have to verify the figures of deaths that you are referring to,” Shonhiwa said.
“It is true that we have not been able to visit Zisco and attend the funeral of the workers.
“The minister is always briefed everyday on what is going on at Ziscosteel by the management and we are trying our best to finish the Essar deal so that operations at the mines can resume quickly.”
The company’s estimated 3 000 workers have not been paid since June last year.
Indian firm Essar Holdings’ $750 million takeover of Zistosteel, now rechristened NewZimSteel has stalled because of a dispute over the transfer mineral resources, forcing officials from the firm to decamp from the Redcliff site.
Three thousand workers and tens of thousands of their family members in the town of Redcliff are languishing because of the shutdown, that has affected salaries and medical aid insurance fees.
At its peaks, it employed 5 000 people and was a major producer of iron-ore and steel products exporting thousands of tonnes of its steel products in the continent and European markets.
Appearing before the same committee, CZI president Charles Msipa said porous borders were undermining industrial development.
“There is urgent need for those responsible for movement of goods across our borders to introduce pre-inspection of imports,” Msipa said.