By Mark Mhukayesango
Redcliff-9 September 2015 – Gift Muzanenhamo a 64 year old former worker at Ziscosteel, a vibrant steel company in the 80s has borne the brunt of poverty following the closure of the company and condemned to a tumultuous retirement.
His life is a direct contrast of his counterparts living large in other cities ,whilst he lives to rue his decision to build a life in Torwood.
When Radio VOP spoke to Muzanenhamo who is now living like a destitute,it was clear that the failed Ziscosteel deal between the Zimbabwean government and Indian Company, Essar Holdings had affected thousands of families who are now barely making to the end of the month.
“When the President came to officially preside over the deal, we were hoping that the good old days had finally come back, but four years down the line life has turned sour,” said a melancholic Muzanenhamo.
President Robert Mugabe officially presided over the Essar deal amid pomp and fanfare,but government could not agree on a number of issues concerning the deal,hence the investor grew cold feet.
The investor also made an about turn due to tumbling world steel prices which also affected the local industry,although Industry Minister ,Mike Bimha said that his office is saddled with investors willing to pour in millions in Ziscosteel.
Redcliff has become a ghost town following the closure of Ziscosteel , with thousands of families living in abject poverty since the steel maker ceased production.
The town near Kwekwe once thrived from the vibrancy of Ziscosteel,but now former employees can barely sustain their own families.
Most families, like Muzanenhamo’s have been engaging in running battles with council due to defaulting water and rates payments.
“This town used be heaven on earth when Zisco was still operational and now that the deal has been stalled, all hope is gone,” said Muzanenhamo who worked for 30 years at the steel company.
Redcliff council revenue collection has since been grossly affected by the closure of Ziscosteel since it was the sole source of livelihood for residents here.
To add the residents’ misery , council which is owed $11 million has since engaged a local private law firm to recover an excess of $11 million owed by residents and corporates.
Although council has taken such stern measures , residents representatives say taking residents to debt collectors was a futile attempt as most families have lost their breadwinners.
Private law firm , Magodora and Partners Legal Practitioners have been contracted to recover the debt.
In a letter to Magodora and Partners dated September 1, Redcliff council announces that it awarded the law firm a tender for debt collection.
“Council at its Special council meeting resolved that your company he awarded the tender for debt collection services in the following conditions collections of money to be done at the Civic Centre, commission free should be borne by the debtor,” reads part of the letter signed by Town Clerk, Elizabeth Gwatipedza.
Over 19 families in Torwood ,Redcliff have been evicted from their houses due to unpaid utility bills.
“We haven’t been paid for years now. I have even forgotten that there is a pay date, I actually survive from selling scrap metal,” Melody Mashaire ,a 46 year old Ziscosteel employee said.
Families here are unable to pay their utility bills since Zisco steel has not been operational since Indian Investor ,Essar Holdings made an about turn on the deal.
Most former Ziscosteel workers have turned to vending as the company fails to reopen ,whilst downstream industries in Gweru and Kwekwe like ZimAlloys have suffered from the ill fate of the former steel giant.
Life here has become tough, as youths venture into gold panning and selling scrap metal for a living.
Most school leavers’ future looks bleak as there is no employment to talk about.
As such Redcliff council has also suffered from the demise of Ziscosteel as it fails to pay its employees due to its dwindling coffers,hence the decision to take defaulting residents to debt collectors.
Last month council parceled out huge tracts of land to settle over $9000 in salary arrears per each worker,but still failed to settle the burgeoning wage bill.