HARARE, May 12 — For the hundreds of workers at the defunct Kwekwe, Midlands Province-based steelmaker, New Zim Steel, formerly Ziscosteel, pay day will finally come this week when they receive part of their salaries for the first time in years, says a company official.

Ziscosteel has been dormant for more than five years and is expected to resume production in two years’ time. Essar Africa Holdings, a subsidairy of Indian conglomerate Essar Group, and the major shareholder in the firm, is set to pump in 650 million US dollars in the first phase of the revival of the company.

The Zimbabwe government sold its 54 per cent stake in the steel maker to Essar in 2011 and retained a 36 per cent shareholding, with private shareholders holding the other 10 per cent.

Workers at the company, who have been scrounging for survival because of non-payment of salaries, are owed more than 110 million USD in unpaid salaries and other benefits.

“The relief is in many faces and it will start from next week and will be on-going thereout,” said Niw Zim Steel Chairperson Nyasha Makuvise last week.

Makuvise said the board had held a meeting with the workers’ representatives to inform them of the developments last week. Essar Africa director Firdhose Coovadia said the bulk of the funds owed to workers were towards pensions and medical aid fund.

“The pensions fund and the medical aid fund have been bankrupt for the last four years,” he said. “The last actuarial valuation done of the pension fund deficit at Zisco was done in 2012 and showed a deficit of 35 million USD. We have now engaged a consultant to undertake a current deficit (valuation).”

Coovadia said former Ziscosteel workers had not been able to get their benefits as a result of the deficit.
“It is important to rehabilitate the pension fund to allow pensioners and other beneficiaries to get their benefits,” he said.

Once fully operational, New Zim Steel will employ around 7,000 workers, the majority of whom had been made redundant in the last few years