By William Milasi
There appears to be no immediate reprieve for long suffering ex-Ziscosteel employees as The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) has now entered the second week maintaining a garnish order on the parastatal’s accounts.
The garnish comes at a time when government is settling outstanding salary arrears of the parastatals ex-employees.
There has been reports that the revenue authority which had been locked in negotiations with Ziscosteel management was this week going to lift the garnish.
The company’s Chief Executive Officer Alois Gowo confirmed that the Zisco accounts have been garnished. “The garnishee order arose out of the company falling behind on some payments of statutory obligations,” Gowo said in a statement.
He further explained that management had been locked in negotiations with ZIMRA.
“The company has offered a payment plan which is under consideration. Once accepted the garnishee would be lifted and former workers would be able to access their salary arrears,” said Gowo.
He could however, not tell when the garnish will be lifted.
“It’s not clear when this will happen but it’s hoped it will be fairly soon. The salaries though are secure and have not been affected,” he said.
In 2017 former Ziscosteel employees started receiving part of the $38 million windfall availed by government as part of the outstanding salaries backdated to 2009.
Government had agreed to settle the ex-employees arrears in tranches beginning September 2017.
Government took over Zisco debts under the Debt Assumption Act in 2017 after retrenchment of all employees in 2016.
Majority owned by the State, the company effectively stopped production at its Redcliff main base back in 2008.
The arrears were settled following a court order through lawyers who attached the company’s properties.
A billion dollar rescue, through a takeover by an Indian company, proved stillbirth after government threw spanners into the works.
The sheriff of the High Court then attached vehicles, machinery and other movable property belonging to the company following an order by the High court over the workers unpaid salaries.
The 2016 layoffs then followed the collapse of a deal with India’s Essar Group.
Essar had then won the bid to take over Ziscosteel against competitors including ArcelorMittal and Jindal steel with the takeover hyped at an elaborate 2011 event attended by President Robert Mugabe and his then power-sharing Prime Minister the late Morgan Tsvangirai.
Then Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in his 2016 budget said the government would take over Zisco estimated $700 million debt in a bid to woo fresh investors.
Meanwhile, the $1 billion Ziso project is on ice pending Government and the Chinese investor R&F reconciling on a number of issues underpinning the deal.
By William Milasi