The Herald (Harare)

25 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Msipa Blasts 'Bickering' Officials

Gweru — Former Midlands provincial governor and Zanu-PF Politburo member Cde Cephas Msipa has taken a swipe at the Government for bickering over shareholding of NewZim Minerals at the expense of workers.

The workers have gone for almost a year without income. Cde Msipa said Government was supposed to put the welfare of New Zim Steel and New Zim Minerals workers first over other bureaucratic processes.

"Whatever business Government is there to serve the interests of the people and in our policies we must always put people first," he said. "Whatever we do, we should ask ourselves whether are we putting people first and if we do that, we won't go wrong but if we ignore people's expectations then we are in trouble.

"I would like to see New Zim Steel opening as soon as possible." Cde Msipa said Government was supposed to expedite the negotiations so that New Zim Steel can start operating.

He said so many chain companies relied on New Zim Steel but had been let down by Government's failure to allow the steel company to resume operations. "Those people have suffered enough, their children are suffering and their families are suffering.

"Government has to do something as soon as possible and alleviate the suffering.

"We are really talking about suffering of the people. That's the main issue and I think by allowing those people to operate we will show that we want to see the people gainfully employed.

"It's de-humanising to be without work. This is one of the biggest problems we have, unemployment. So we want to create employment but we will not be taken seriously if we don't allow something we went through to operate.

"It raised a lot of hopes for the people who had not been earning but now they are wondering. Their hopes were dashed and it's not right," said Cde Msipa.

He said these employees had water and electricity disconnected at their houses because they could not pay their statutory obligations.

Some of their children, said Cde Msipa, were being sent away from school because they had no income. Bickering between the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce over mining rights have stalled production at the steel giant since its re-launch in March last year.

The mines ministry argued that the 80 percent shareholding stake in the mining arm to the investor was supposed to be revised downwards because there were more than US$30 billion worthy of iron ore deposits at Mwanesi ranch in Chivhu.

The ministry also intimated that it wanted some of the claims at Mwanesi to be given to other companies. On the other hand, the investor argued that they wanted iron ore claims at Mwanesi for them to start operating.

The bickering resulted in Essar Group stopping paying salaries to its employees in March this year amid indications it had forked out millions in wages without production.

The Redcliff-based company owed its employees over US$12 million, a debt it assumed from Ziscosteel.

Operations are set to resume soon at the company after Government approved the deal in its current 80-20 share structure.

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