Ziscosteel, Chinese investors and Zimbabwe’s poor record for negotiating investment deals

From inside what used to be the commentary box, high above what is left of the sports field at Torwood Stadium, one can look across to the pile of rust that was once one of Africa’s largest steel factories.

The furnaces at Ziscosteel have long gone cold and silent and the red smoke no longer rises from the chimneys.

At the steel mill itself, mean baboons fight for food right outside what used to be the HR department, as if to remind us of the greed that destroyed what used to be one of the country’s biggest employers.

The decayed conveyor belt running across the road and up the hill doesn’t really go anywhere anymore.

A rust-caked shell where wild animals and desperate scrap scavengers roam, anyone can see that all that talk of reviving Zisco overnight is mere rhetoric.

So, why then is a Chinese real estate company, with no traceable experience in metals or resources, considering spending at least a billion dollars on this 75-year old steel plant, or whatever is left of it?

This week, the government announced that it was negotiating a deal with R&F of China on the possible rehabilitation of Ziscosteel.

According to Industry Minister Mike Bimha, the deal, if it goes through, would see investment of up to $2 billion.

“When all these phases have been completed, we are looking at an initial injection of over US$1 billion and probably it will come to US$2 billion as we proceed,” Bimha said on Monday.

Bimha was speaking after a meeting at State House between Zhang Li, co-chair of R&F, and President Robert Mugabe.

According to Forbes, Zhang Li is worth $3.3 billion and his co-leader Li Sze Lim has a net worth of $3 billion.

The company has a market value of close to $7 billion.

R&F is one of the largest real estate firms in China, and was once part of an exclusive group of the China’s largest developers, known as the “Five South China Tigers” for their aggressive business style in real estate.

With 111 hotels, it has become the world’s biggest luxury hotel owner, according to one report.

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