he Zimbabwean steel-making towns of Redcliff and Kwekwe burst back to life this week as more than 1,700 workers of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company were paid for the first time in nearly a year by strategic investor Essar Africa Holdings Limited.
Ziscosteel workers committee member Patson Mubaiwa said Essar Africa managers paid out a month’s salary with the lowest-paid workers receiving US$350 and the higher-paid steelworkers receiving up to US$1,200. He said workers immediately embarked on a spending spree, buying new televisions and clearing grocery store shelves.
After paying Ziscosteel employees, Essar management visited subsidiary Lancashire Steel where they paid 700 workers a portion of their outstanding salaries. “Everyone is excited and happy that we have received part of our outstanding salaries from the new investors,” he said, adding, “We have confidence in the new investors."
Former Kwekwe mayor Rogers Chisi said hopes in the community are that life will return to normal. “Redcliff and Kwekwe are a hive of activity as people are buying anything they can lay their hands on since they have been paid by Essar," Chisi said.
The company bought a controlling stake in Ziscosteel last year in a deal sanctioned by the Zimbabwe government, which lacked capital to revive operations and pay hundreds of millions in debt that had piled up at the former state-controlled enterprise