Tafadzwa says for years their business was flourishing and from the small business they were running and the salary he got from Zisco, which used to be one of the most well paying companies in the Midlands Province they were able to send their children to school and also extend a hand to other family members.
“We had a comfortable life and everything seemed to be on the right track. Our small business was flourishing as the well paid Zisco workers would come and spent a fortune in the bar and the restaurant,” Tafadzwa remarked.
Rita recalled to Radio VOP how Redcliff center used to be a hype of activity in the early 90’s.
“There used to be seven banks here but now as you can see only two are still open, which are CBZ and P.O.S.B. The rest of the banks closed shop and just left the buildings some of them which as you can see are still idle and closed,” she said pointing to some of the buildings that have been vandalised.
Tafadzwa says as Zimbabwe’s economy dwindled, their fortunes started to turn into misfortunes. He said the halt of production at Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) had brought the small mining town of Redcliff on its knees as workers residing there had lost their livelihoods.
“When payment of salaries became erratic about seven years ago, Redcliff town started to disintegrate. All those who were running businesses, here at Redcliff center, Torwood and Rutendo had Zisco workers as their backbone so the fall of Zisco led to the collapse of virtually most of the businesses in Redcliff, Rutendo and Torwood,” Tafadzwa told VOP.
According to some council minutes of Redcliff municipality, the council was cash strapped as residents of the three suburbs which houses Zisco Workers failed to pay their rates and rentals. According to some of the minutes of October 2009 Redcliff Council noted,
“Despite the introduction of the use of the foreign currency in February, our cash inflows have not improved but instead have worsened as we cater for a community that had its breadwinners at Zisco, company that is now non functional. The residents are failing to pay their rates as their source of livelihood is no more.”
A visit at the center and in some parts of Torwood and Rutendo by Radio VOP revealed how poverty had taken toll in the suburbs. Most of the shops have closed and companies like Nyorenyore had relocated into town after the demise of Zisco. The town resembles a ghost town with lack of economic activity.
Speaking to Radio VOP, the few remaining shop owners said they were now selling small things that are used daily as resident’s income was problematic.
“I sell sugar, salt and bread which are basics and are used every day, “Abel Chigumira a shop owner in Rutendo suburb said.
However with the signing of the deal to resuscitate ZISCO, Redcliff and Kwekwe are optimistic that this will bring a new lease of life.The official handover of Zisco by President Robert Mugabe last Wednesday to its new owners in the private sector has brought smiles to Redcliff and Kwekwe.
ZISCO which has been split in to two companies and renamed NewZim steel Private Limited and NewZim Minerals Private Limited has been bought by ESSAR Africa holdings limited (EAHL) an Indian company.
Officially launching the new company, President Robert Mugabe said he was excited to launch the company which he said would see the rejuvenation of the steel making plant.
“I am thrilled to be a witness to the awakening of a sleeping giant,” Mugabe told Redcliff.
Tafadzwa said after years of not getting a Salary he was only hoping that the best come out of the Essar deal.
“As workers we cannot wait for our lives to begin again. We had been subjected to poverty and we hope things will change. We are also hoping that the new owners and the new management will give us reasonable salaries as we have a lot of debts that we need to service,” he said.
Another worker Thomas Mhangachena who was in torn teckies and a worn out work suit on the day of the launch said he only hoped for better times.
“Our prayers are that our new employers be different from other foreign investors we have heard of who ill-treat their workers and pay peanuts. We have suffered for too long and we hope our prayers will be answered,” Mhangachena said.
During the launch, Essar Vice Chairman, Ravi Ruia promised that while they would retain all the workers, they are committed to improving the lives of the workers. “We are committed to giving them a better life and we hope we will work well together,” Ruia told delegates who were witnesses to the rebirth of the new company.
The promise by Essar that they will retain the former Zisco workers and create another 3.500 jobs in and around Redcliff and Chivhu has given hope to Kwekwe and more so to Redcliff that they can reclaim the glory of their town and city.