Zisco stripped of US$1m assets

Defunct steel giant Ziscosteel, now NewZim Steel, is reported to have lost assets worth over a US$1 million this year alone in a well-orchestrated looting scam involving top management at the beleaguered company.

Blessed Mhlanga

Sources at the company allege that a cartel of top managers are behind a spat of thefts which have seen the company losing huge electric motors used to power blast furnaces and other spares ordered by Ziscosteel during the time it was still operational.

The company has lost assets including copper wire, pumps and impellers (rotating components of centrifugal pumps) and other spares needed to repair coke ovens and furnaces.

A source in the top management who refused to be named, said some of the spares stolen were of very high value, but management was reluctant to act, stalling police investigations and other internal processes which could be used to plug holes.

“At one time early this year we lost two-and-a-half tonnes of copper valued at over US$10 000 and one just wonders how all that copper was carried out of the stocks yard without the soldiers and security on guard detecting anything,” said the source.

“Management, which was supposed to take a leading role in ensuring investigations are conducted, are busy stalling them.”

Workers committee chairperson Cheneso Jack said junior workers are concerned with the continued looting of the company’s assets.

On January 6 Martin Shoko, who works in the company’s central stores, reported a series of thefts which had seen the company losing impellers some as heavy as 50kg.

In a letter signed by Detective Inspector Columbia Musvaire on May 29, the police said they had failed to make any arrests after their investigations hit a brick wall.

“Reference your report to the police on 26/01/15 is advised that as a result of investigations carried out, the relevant papers are held by this station pending possible receipt of further information,” reads part of the letter counter-signed by Shoko on behalf of Ziscosteel.

Jack says her entire team was suspended after they demanded to know why chief executive officer Alois Gowo and his team were failing to take action against the alleged thieves.

“A total of 26 stores personnel were suspended from work after the confrontation between us as the workers committee and management. No charges were preferred and no one appeared before a disciplinary committee. We reported back for work after 30 days of the suspension had expired,” she said.

Jack said her department, with the help of internal auditors, had managed to establish that the company lost spares and equipment worth nearly US$1 million in a space of four months.

She said the workers’ committee had met with Gowo, board chairperson Nyasha Makuvise and company secretary Admire Takawira and told them about the asset stripping.

“I sat in the boardroom with the top guys at this company as a worker representative and told them in their faces that management is stealing from this company, but nothing has been done,” she said.

Takawira refused to comment at first saying the matter was not for public discussion.

After being pressed about lack of action to deal with the alleged thefts, Takawira requested questions in writing.

Last year, an alert guard foiled an attempt to steal 38 drums of PVC copper cables worth US$101 084,64 in broad daylight.

The cables were loaded into a haulage truck and the driver of the truck had genuine delivery notes signed by top managers at the company, and recorded as spares being returned to Zim Metals in Gweru because they were excess material not needed at the company.

The guard, however, noticed that the copper cables had been initially purchased from South Africa and not Gweru.

Stores manager Coffee Pindirire was arrested and charged, but was acquitted for lack of evidence by Kwekwe resident magistrate Taurai Manuwere in February.