Zisco seeks new investors

DEFUNCT Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) is looking for new investors in a bid to revive the firm, which at its peak employed over 8 000 people in Redcliff and Kwekwe.

The firm, considered to be strategic to the country’s economic revival, stopped production in 2008 owing to operational and financial challenges. Several efforts to resuscitate Zisco have failed over the years.

In a statement at the weekend, Zisco acting board chairperson Gift Mugano said the company is hunting for new investors after Chinese firm R&F, which intended to invest US$1 billion in the mothballed steel producer, pulled the plug on the deal in 2019 due to legacy debts. “It (the company) is seeking investors who would be interested in availing funds (equity/debt) to resuscitate this former iron and steel producing company,” read the Zisco statement.

The deadline for filing of expressions of interest is April 30. Besides R&F, in 2015 an Indian company, Essar’s bid to acquire 60 percent of the steel producer also collapsed. Zisco, which started operations in Bulawayo in 1938 after it was formed by a private consortium and now located in Redcliff, is 89 percent government-owned.

In 1942, the government formed the Rhodesia Iron and Steel Commission, a statutory body which took over the steel works. In 1946, a small plant was constructed at Redcliff and commenced production in 1948. Between 1948 and 1956, Zisco gradually expanded and a year later, the Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company was formed followed by an expansion programme, which saw the commissioning of modern blast furnaces and installation of the first coke oven battery.

The expansion of the plant continued until 1975 when blast furnace four was commissioned, bringing steel works capacity to one million tonnes of liquid steel per year. In the 1990s, operations at Zisco started deteriorating while mining costs at Buchwa Mine sharply rose, forcing the company to develop Ripple Creek Mine for the supply of iron ore to the blast furnaces.  – Daily News