BY STEPHEN CHADENGA
Gweru used to be home to some of the most thriving industries in the country.
The big ones that quickly come to mind are ZimAlloys, Bata, Zimglass and Zimcast among others.
Sunday Southern Eye recently took a stroll along Bristol Road to get a glimpse of what became of Zimcast, which used to be one of the largest foundries in Zimbabwe.
At its peak, Zimcast employed 450 workers and produced close to 8000 tonnes of finished iron products per year.
But the former giant producer of iron products shut down in 2012, and in successive years the more than 6 000 hectares premises resembled ancient buildings because of its dilapidated structures.
Even the 2014 Gweru Industry Revival Initiative plan by then Gweru Urban legislator Sesel Zvidzai aimed at the resuscitation of major companies that used to anchor the city’s economy and employ thousands of people failed to galvanise the once thriving metal factory from comatose.
After a decade of closure, the place where the foundry factory used to be a hive of activity where iron products some exported outside the country, is now home to substandard environmental unfriendly Chinese chrome smelters where the Asian country’s owned Jin Yi chrome smelting plant has been established.
In April this year, the chrome smelter hogged the limelight after one its drivers Chesia Mdala, aged 39 was found in a state of decomposition due to hot water burns floating in a cooling pond tower where he allegedly fell while washing the company’s vehicle.
Following the tragic incident,the National Social Security Association (NSSA) ordered that the pond be barricaded for the safety of workers.
Jin Yi exports chrome concentrates to the Asian market.
Analysts have questioned the company’s economic benefit to the country given that Zimcast used to produce tones of finished iron products with 30% of them exported to neighbouring countries earning Zimbabwe foreign currency.
“It’s really sad that a company like Zimcast which used to economically benefit the country collapsed for good,” Zvidzai, who is also an industrialist and owner of Gweru based Waterglass, told this publication.
“This has been the trend for other industries in the Midlands capital which have either been turned into churches or taken over by mainly Chinese chrome smelters.
“We are going nowhere as a city and any government that fails to revive such key industries is a failed government.”
In 2016, the iron products’ producing company’s property went under the hammer and was stripped of assets such as a block of offices, engineering workshop, loading bays and store rooms among other equipment.
Six years later the Chinese are now producing chrome concentrates at the former Zimcast yard which finds its way outside the country. Last year, government banned the export of raw chrome ore and concentrates on local refining.
The ban on concentrates is however yet to be effected.