Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
THE Government is set to inject funds into a defunct Kwekwe-based tar producer, ZimChem Refiners Pvt Ltd which will see the company producing tar that would be used for the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway dualisation project.
In an interview on the sidelines of the tour of Zisco in Redcliff on Friday, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will soon avail funds that would see his ministry resuscitating ZimChem Refineries to start producing tar which would be used for the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway dualisation project.
Dr Bimha said the Government was prioritising its revival to ensure that contractors mandated to dualise the country’s busiest highway would not import raw materials that are locally available.
“We are also in the process of looking at reviving ZimChem. Most of what is being produced at ZimChem goes into road construction. There is a connection that is very important to us now that there has been an announcement that works on the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway dualisation project. We are in discussion with the Ministry of Transport (and Infrastructural Development) to see whether they can take care of what would be at ZimChem to feed into the construction of our highway,” he said.
Ziscosteel used to provide ZimChem with coal tar, a by-product from steel production, which it used to manufacture chemicals such as creosote oil and benzene. It also used to produce tar that is used in road construction. Ziscosteel used to provide 75 percent of the raw materials. Zimchem also produces chemical products, refined benzol, benzene, and coal tar products. The company was founded in 1990.
Dr Bimha said the Government would soon revive Lancashire Steel, a subsidiary of Ziscosteel to start production while Government looks for a new investor to revive the giant iron and steel company.
“We have discovered that there are opportunities in some activities being started while we are looking for an investor. The areas that we are looking at, at the moment are resuscitation of Lancashire Steel which in essence will mean us importing steel billets for the company to produce fencing wire and similar products. We are in discussions with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in mobilising resources for getting Lancashire Steel back in line,” he said.
Dr Bimha said there were seven new investors who are willing to partner Government in reviving Ziscosteel and the ministry was already engaged in negotiations with the companies assessing them before they could settle for the highest bidder.
“Essar are still interested and have expressed their interest that when metal prices change we would want to reconsider that.
However, we need to move forward and therefore Government has given us the mandate to proceed with soliciting other investors and also looking at other opportunities of making sure that we kick start other processes while we are still looking for an investor. So the process has started in terms of soliciting for investors. A number of them from a number of countries have come forward and expressed interest in joining Government in resuscitating Ziscosteel.
“We are in the process of conducting due diligence on the companies that also have the freedom to come and do business here. At this stage I’m not in a position to divulge the names of the companies. We are negotiating with them at the moment.
We are moving fast so that we arrive at a decision where we say we are now dealing with this particular company,” he said.