Manhize steel plant: building a future for everyone

By Phillipa Jaja
IN a few years – perhaps just about a decade – about 20 000 people will be employed by one entity in Zimbabwe.

This will arguably single biggest employer, outside Government, in the Southern African country.
The company behind this huge prospect is Dinson Group, the Zimbabwe subsidiary of Chinese metals giant, Tsingshan Holdings Group
Tsingshan itself employs about 130 000 people globally in its projects in China, Indonesia, Argentina, India and the United States of America.

Dinson Group currently operates three units in Hwange, Selous and Mvuma-Chivu that make an integrated steel value chain that is set to culminate with the opening of Manhize Iron and Steel Plant.
The company is set to also expand into cement production and lithium value addition, according to the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the parent company and the Government of Zimbabwe late last year.

Of the total workforce that Dinson Group will have in Zimbabwe, 5 000 people are going to be employed directly at the Manhize steel plant, some 200km south of Harare, while up to 20 000 will be economically involved in upstream, midstream and downstream activities.
Further, developments around the steel plant will see the establishment of a new mineral value addition industrial park and town that will house up to 20 000 residents.

The steel plant is still under construction, with progress just about 50 percent towards completion currently.
However, this has not stopped speculation about the impact of the development, with mostly positive outlook on the impact that the investment will make in Zimbabwe, including transport infrastructure development that includes road and rail, community development which brings about dam construction, telecommunication network, bridges, social amenities and creation of upstream-midstream-downstream industries.

Workers at the centre
As the construction of the massive plant is taking shape, significant attention has been paid on the condition of the workforce.
This past week, our news crew were granted access to the plant, and witnessed first hand the scale of the operation, as well as the working and living conditions of Disco workers.
On a wet afternoon, lunch was served, and workers formed beelines at three canteens on the site that serve about 800 people of the 850 strong workforce. Some workers stay in nearby villages.

The canteens are operated by a leading industrial company, Tsebo, which not only caters here at Manhize, but also other Dinson Group subsidiaries as well as other large mining, industrial and corporate players throughout Zimbabwe.

They are contracted to provide meals to the workers.
Felix Chatukuta, the head chef said his company was providing the best service in line with its standards.
“We provide three meals per day and we serve what we agreed in consultation with management,” Chatukuta said.
“We serve breakfast, lunch and supper. Our meal plans vary: we serve tea and bread in the morning and for lunch and supper we serve sadza with relish,which changes everyday as we serve meat, kapenta, vegetables and beans.

“We do not serve any one dish repeatedly as this is not healthy or in our standards,” he said, speaking in a large kitchen, south of the plant.
Chatukuta’s kitchen is a hive of activity as chefs prepare for the next meal.
For all the buzz, the floors and walls are squeaky clean, something that Chatukuta says is essential for a healthy environment.
Adjacent to the kitchen are workers’ dormitories.
There are about 150 units in 10 blocks and inside they are kitted with bunk beds. Outside, new gardens of flowers and lawn bedeck the neat alleys between the blocks, giving the housing a growing ambience.

Separate washrooms and toilets for communal use are located on the western side.
These structures are temporary, as they cater for workers during the construction stage.
In a futuristic design, there will be state of the art facilities that will comprise of amenities such as standard dormitories, a clinic, stadium and recreational centre.

The company revealed that already it had identified the grounds for this.
Twenty-three year old Talent Mzembi, a general hand, says the Dinson Iron and Steel Company has provided him with an opportunity to advance himself economically given his low education, something that is true to hundreds of workers here who are learning new skills.
“I joined this company in July last year and it really opened opportunities for people who were not employed because of low grades at school,” he said.
“We can learn how to operate machines and the company assists you to get the papers here,” he said.
For Mzembi, he has another job – keeping the environment clean.

“My key job is cleaning the ablution facilities,” he explained. “The toilets are cleaned three times everyday; in the morning, afternoon and evening or when necessary.”
The ablution facilities use soak-aways and septic tanks, and there is no sewage or effluent flowing out.
The distance between the ablution facilities and the accommodation cluster means no sewage could reach the living area.
Recently, the management added a new fixture onto the site for the comfort of the workers – a huge water geyser – meaning workers can now also have heated water for bathing.

Farisai Ncube (31) one of the women who live in the staff quarters here, shows off the aesthetic, female side of the area.
Living with three others in the room, theirs is a welcoming little home whose floors are polished with the distinct red wax.
The room is adorned with an ornamental curtain and various fragrances fill the air.
The company has provided a safe space for the women, who are very few in number.
“At first we were afraid to live among so many men, but it turned out that we are very safe here,” she said.
The cook said the management assured women of their safety and encouraged them to report untoward behavior.
“Luckily for us, we have not had any bad incident,” said Ncube.

The human resources manager at the company, Leon Mutihoto, said they were striving to meet global standards and best practices in line with the parent company’s record worldwide.
He explained that accommodation at the site was temporary as the project was under construction with long term workers permanent quarters being built and also going to be accommdated at the new town just acrross Munyati River.
Even then, things were above board.

“We provide beds and workers only have to bring their bedding. We have maximum of six people per room, and we expect them as adults to keep their living environments clean,” he said.
He emphasised that no facilities were malfunctioning and that cleaning of public facilities were made on schedule to meet standards.
As an employer, the company had big sights.
“We want to be the employer of choice in the country,” he said.
“Already we are one of the best judging by our numbers. How many companies are employing the same numbers that we have in the country?”
Dinson Group is creating employment in the upstream, midstream and downstream industries, and the youth aged between 18 and 35 constitute the majority of our workforce.

“These are the future. We are also teaching them skills and we register them with Zimbabwe Manpower Development so that they become skilled and take their skills wherever they go and we do encourage them to go for trade tests. Training our employees also ensures continuity and they are also learning from Chinese experts here,” he said.
According to Project Director Wilfred Motsi, workers at Manhize earn an average of US$9, which is actually above the minimum wage stipulated by the National Employment Council.
“Regarding overtime, the workers are paid and they are given 4 off days a month,” Motsi explained.
“We are not perfect, but we are striving to become an employer of choice and to meet highest standards for workers in their living and working conditions,” Motsi said.

He explained that the company would be employing 2000 people by end of the year.
This is a massive opportunity for local people to earn a living, in a country where unemployment is high.
Further, the company is focusing on skills development by training students from local universities and colleges through internship programmes
Last year, Dinson Group entered into partnership with training institutions to channel learners to the company, bridging the gap between tertiary learning and industry. , The company is in talking terms with the Zimbabwe School of Mines to forge partnership, Zimbabwean artisans are also gaining experience at the company through skills exchanges with Chinese technicians.

The Manhize Steel Plant will be a massive modern operation that will run on latest technologies that will benefit Zimbabweans, following years without similar investments.
With Zimbabwe becoming a steel giant in Africa, the country is set on an industrialisation path that will grow the economy exponentially and improve the livelihoods of ordinary people.

The company has also been undertaking various community focused projects and assistance.
The company will soon unveil it’s Community Investment Fund that will be used to channel resources into various projects to empower the communities, and make sure that noone is left behind.
The workers at Manhize, present and future, are the foot soldiers for this endeavour, Motsi asserted.
“We are building a future for everyone,” Motsi said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *