The Zisco revival drive has twice suffered false starts following the collapse of the US$750 million Indian Essar deal in 2015, as well as China’s R & F US$1 billion deal, which also crumbled last year in December.
But Nzenza believes the Zisco revamp task can be achieved this time around through innovation and harnessing inward opportunities while working closely with local investors.
She told stakeholders while delivering a keynote address during an industry and commerce strategic planning workshop in Bulawayo that: “Zisco Steel should be up and running by end of 2021”.
The minister said President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pressed it upon her ministry that Zisco must be revived at all cost so as to impact positively on the economy.
“The key desire for our ministry is that we must revive Zisco,” she said, adding that the Government was disturbed by the continued importation of iron and steel products, which is estimated to be costing the economy up to US$1 billion annually. Steel imports are part of the top package that drives the import bill in Zimbabwe leading to trade deficit.
Nzenza said the urgency to revive Zisco buttresses the ministry’s National Steel Strategy, which targets a host of steel products and allied companies including Lancashire steel. Experts have said that Zisco could not be revived in its old model, as it will be too costly, but have stressed the need for an innovation and technology inspired path. Nzenza concurs with this view.
“We will be looking at new technology and new skills, we have to bring in new investors and promote the Government’s vision to re-engage and promote local industry,” she said.
“As a ministry we are making progress to ensure that Zisco is retained to its former glory, which will resultantly ensure that the country is self-sufficient on steel products, eliminating the steel import bill.”
As the Government is seized with securing a serious potential investor for the defunct steel company, the new Zisco board and management has proposed a short-term roadmap that targets the resuscitation of the firm’s subsidiaries.
The focus on securing a serous foreign investor, however, remains under focus on the long term. Ziscosteel owns subsidiary entities such as ZimChem, Lancashire Steel, and Buchwa Iron Mining Company (Bimco), which could be successfully turned around separately. Zisco acting board chairperson, Engineer Martin Manuhwa said: “We have done an assessment in the short-term in the Ziscosteel revival roadmap, which will begin by looking at how we can put back Bimco into its mining operations.
“We are currently selling waste and boulders among other things so that we can get capital to restart the operations.
“We want to put back production of lime from lime fields, we also want to resuscitate the mills section with our four rolling mills as well as the bar rod mill, which makes billets and other sections for the manufacturing process.”
According to the Zisco board, plans are also underway to resuscitate the Zisco mills section as part of the game plan for transformed manufacturing processes that are expected to benefit Lancashire Steel.
Zisco is a strategic entity in the economy given its potential in terms of job creation and value chain impact as well as exports. The Redcliff-based steel manufacturing giant collapsed at the height of hyper-inflation in 2008, leaving hundreds of its workers stranded. Several businesses such as the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), Hwange Colliery and downstream businesses have also felt the pinch of the Zisco crash.