Exploring the unexpected inhabitants of Ziscosteel: Monkeys, baboons,  venomous snakes

By Chipo Gudhe

In the heart of what was once a thriving steel giant, Ziscosteel, now lies an unexpected ecosystem where monkeys swing from rusted beams, baboons roam amidst dormant machinery, and venomous snakes lurk in the shadows. Once bustling with the clang of metal and the hum of industry, the corridors of Ziscosteel now echo with the calls of wild animals, painting a surreal picture of nature reclaiming what was once man-made.

As the sun rises over the skeletal remains of blast furnace number 4, workers arriving at Ziscosteel are greeted not only by the sight of dilapidated buildings but also by the presence of monkeys and baboons, who have made themselves at home within the confines of the steel maker. Sections such as the billet mills, once the heart of production, now find themselves under the watchful eyes of these curious primates, as if guarding over the remnants of a bygone era.

A baboon roams carefreely at the premises

However, amidst the curious antics of the monkeys and baboons, lies a darker reality. Workers allege that these sections of the steel plant are under siege from venomous snakes, adding an element of danger to an already surreal landscape. As they navigate through the maze of rusted equipment, workers must remain vigilant, constantly on the lookout for these silent predators who have made Ziscosteel their hunting ground.

One worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said there are areas they never attempt to venture into because of venomous snakes.

“The mills section is a no go area for us, there a big venomous snakes lurking in the forgotten billets. One can never risk going in there. The only safe areas are the soak pits where massive stripping of assets is being done,” he said.

Yet, the presence of wild animals is just one aspect of the challenges facing Ziscosteel. The once-thriving steel giant now finds itself in a state of comatose, grappling with a myriad of issues, chief amongst them being asset stripping by greedy individuals. Vital equipment and machinery, essential for the operation of the plant, have been stripped away, leaving behind a shell of what was once a symbol of industrial prowess.

“Massive looting has been taking place here for the past years. You see these trucks going in and out with what is being called rubbles, it is just a cover of what is underneath. No one can do anything about it,” said one worker on condition of anonymity.

However the Minister of Industry and Commerce Mangaliso Ndhlovu said action will be taken to bring those stripping assets to book that is if there was a case indeed.

“Action will be taken if there is anything illegal here. The law will take its course,” he said.

Workers at the company have borne the brunt of these challenges, enduring almost ten months without receiving their salaries.

Despite the takeover of the resuscitation efforts by Kuvimba Holdings, hopes for a revival seem distant as the company continues to languish in a state of uncertainty.

Among the remnants of the former steel giant Ziscosteel, there exists a dwindling workforce, comprised of individuals whose once-strong strides have given way to a resigned shuffle.

These workers, weathered by years of toil and hardship, now navigate the cavernous halls of the steel plant with weary steps, their once-boisterous voices now reduced to muted whispers. Clad in worn-out shoes that bear the scars of countless miles walked, they carry with them the weight of decades spent in the service of industry, their faces etched with lines of both perseverance and resignation. Despite their frailty and advancing age, they remain the custodians of a fading legacy, clinging to memories of a time when the fires of the blast furnaces burned bright and the clang of metal echoed through the corridors.

The story of Ziscosteel serves as a stark reminder of the decline of Zimbabwe’s industrial sector, once hailed as the backbone of the nation’s economy. In its heyday, Ziscosteel stood as a testament to Zimbabwe’s industrial mighty, providing employment opportunities and driving economic growth. However, decades of mismanagement and neglect have taken their toll, reducing the steel giant to a mere shadow of its former self.

In addition to the challenges posed by aging infrastructure and dwindling resources, the resuscitation of Ziscosteel faces formidable obstacles in the form of the digital era and the rise of artificial intelligence. As industries worldwide embrace automation and digitalization to enhance efficiency and reduce costs, the demand for manual labor diminishes, further marginalizing traditional steel production methods. Moreover, the influx of cheaper Chinese steel into global markets presents stiff competition for Ziscosteel, making it increasingly difficult to compete on price alone. In this rapidly evolving landscape, the need for innovative strategies and investments in technology becomes paramount for Ziscosteel revival and competitive in the face of these modern challenges.

As the sun sets over the rusted carcass of Ziscosteel, the monkeys retreat to their makeshift homes, the baboons disappear into the shadows, and the snakes slither back into their hiding places. But amidst the silence that descends upon the steel maker, there lingers a sense of resilience, a determination to overcome adversity and rebuild what was lost.

For Ziscosteel, the journey towards revival may be long and arduous, but with perseverance and determination, it is a journey that can be undertaken.  If ever the steel giant awakens from its slumber, it will be a testament to the resilience of its people but also a symbol of hope for a brighter future for Zimbabwe’s industrial sector.

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