EDITORAL/Bimha should demonstrate commitment

LAST week, we reported that Essar Africa Holdings Limited (EAHL) had pulled out from Zimbabwe after years of political bickering over its US$750 million acquisition of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco).
The report was based on a statement by Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Victoria Falls, in which Bimha suggested Essar had taken a break from Zimbabwe and that he could not say when Zisco’s operations would resume on account of this development.
Bimha was to later issue a statement denying the pull-out of Essar from the country, arguing that his remarks had been misrepresented.
He insisted Essar was still very much involved in Zisco and suggested that the Indian company had taken the reported break during the inclusive government era (of between 2009 and 2013) due to bickering on the deal but was now back to business at what was once one of Africa’s largest integrated steel company.
It is not our intention to put Bimha to his defence concerning the statement attributed to him in our report last week, which he is denying.
But we would be happy if Bimha could give us answers to these questions:
If Essar is still very much involved in Zisco and has not pulled out, or taken a break, to use his words, how come we do not see the company’s presence?
Why is Bimha unable to say when operations would resume at Zisco?
Why does he want to avoid this question even in Parliament?
The takeover of Zisco by Essar was publicly announced in August 2011, with the announcement that two entities, NewZim Steel (Private) Limited and NewZim Minerals (Private) Limited, had been created as a result of the takeover.
NewZim Minerals was earmarked to takeover vast iron ore deposits formerly held by Zisco, while NewZim Steel was to undertake the steel-making business. We know indeed that during the inclusive government period, the takeover could not be fully implemented because some sections, notably those linked to Bimha’s ruling ZANU-PF party, frustrated Essar’s takeover of mineral deposits that were to finalise the acquisition.
The deal, apparently, was being spearheaded by Bimha’s ministry, which was then led by MDC leader, Welshman Ncube.
But after ZANU PF won a landslide victory and formed a new government without the other partners in the then inclusive government, the project stalled.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, a Cabinet minister in charge of the war veterans’ portfolio, boasted that the collapse of the Essar deal would be good riddance since the deal was a remnant of former vice president Joice Mujuru’s rein, which suggests that the current government has very little interest in the success of the Zisco deal.
Next month, Zimbabwe will count exactly four years since that deal was unveiled. Yet nothing tangible has come out of it, not necessarily because of Essar’s unwillingness, but because of politicians’ parochial interests that, in this case, clearly shows that they have nothing to do with national interest.
Bimha has to demonstrate to the nation that government is committed to the Essar deal and wants it to work.