Africa Moyo and Martin Kadzere
GOVERNMENT is now fine – tuning the implementation matrix of the $1 billion investment into the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco), once a top steel firm on the continent.
Zisco shut down operations in 2008 but efforts to industrialise the country have seen Government signing a $1 billion deal with a wealthy Chinese investor, Mr Zhang Li, in August last year for the revival of the mothballed operations.
Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Minister Dr Mike Bimha exclusively told The Herald Business on Monday evening that they are happy with developments on the project.
However, Dr Bimha said operations cannot start as soon as some critics wish because of the complex nature of the business and the need by the investor to ascertain its viability before operations start.
“On Zisco, there is a lot that we are doing but it’s more of fine-tuning the implementation modalities. As you know, during our first 100 days we wanted to finalise the implementation modalities to establish for instance where the raw materials are, and so on.
“We have an agreement in place and some of the issues relate to the Ministry of Water, Ministry of Transport; so it’s all those little things that we are sorting out. Look, we are working flat out (to seal the deal),” said Dr Bimha.
He declined to give time-lines until the project is consummated saying since many Government departments are involved and the investor is still conducting due diligence, critics would have a field day if the milestones are not met.
But he assured the nation that the investor remains keen to prosecute the project.
Mr Zhang is understood to have met President Mnangagwa during his five-day State visit to China in April and reassured him that his company – R & F – was still keen on the project.
Said Dr Bimha: “This idea of giving time-lines is problematic when you fail to meet them. Both the investor and Government would want to ensure that this is finalised sooner than later.
“You see, this is a huge project. It’s not one of those projects such as making sacks which you can start tomorrow after signing an agreement today. It involves a lot of money; it’s a very complex operation on its own.
“It requires a lot of engineering work. Ever since we signed the agreement, we have been receiving a lot of their technicians and engineers coming to revise the plant because they need to study the project and seek second opinion from consultants.”
Dr Bimha said the lack of physical activity on the ground relates to the “technical nature” of the project as engineers would have to get drawings, take them to China and analyse them and make recommendations.