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Lancashire Steel plots comeback

Lancashire Steel, a subsidiary of Ziscosteel, is set to resume operations after a new investor Whinstone Enterprises agreed to inject fresh capital.

File picture of Ziscosteel
File picture of Ziscosteel

Lancashire Steel, which used to produce wire among other steel products, closed in 2010 as a result of shortage of supply after its mother company Ziscosteel suspended operations.

However, there could be light at the end of the tunnel after Lancashire Steel and Whinstone Enterprises — under the Lancashire Joint Venture (LJV) vehicle — yesterday called for former staffers to apply for jobs at the Kwekwe-based steel maker.

LJV said it was looking forward to assembling a new team and beginning operations. “… All long service employees of Lancashire Steel who served in various divisions in the plant section (must) submit their CVs and job profiles as a matter of urgency to the plant offices in Kwekwe,” the company said.

This comes as the Indian partner raised a stink last year after it emerged that the company was being investigated in Botswana for corruption.

According to local media reports, the deal will give Whinstone Enterprises 50 percent ownership of the Kwekwe-based steelmaker after five years, and 90 percent of profits, but fails to specify how much the company is supposed to invest in the deal, which analysts say was a case of corporate raiding of a national resource.

Lancashire Steel — which stopped operations in 2010 — entered into a five-year partnership with Whinstone Enterprises, owned by the Verma family, which was implicated in the closure of Pula Steel in Botswana under a cloud.

The Verma family, which owned 17 percent of Pula Steel, while 52,3 percent was held by the Botswana government through Bamangwato Concessions, was under investigation in the neighbouring country after the company closed in 2016.

Ranvir Kumar Verma, who owns Whinstone Enterprises, was Pula Steel chief executive at the time it was hit by allegations of corruption and forced to close. Reports by Botswana’s Mmegi newspaper indicate that Ranvir has no experience in steel manufacturing and was allegedly behind the employment of illegal Indian immigrants.

Since the deal between Lancashire Steel and Whinstone Enterprises was signed on July 27, 2018 insiders said there has been no movement amid reluctance by the Indians to pour money into operations.

“Lancashire Steel looked for an investor because they didn’t have money, but then the investor came and says you have been down for long, don’t expect to be up and running soon.

He can’t even pay electricity bills and, instead, wants us to pay through sales of scrap metal,” a source said.

Ezekiel Machingambi who was acting managing director at the firm last year confirmed that production had not started and could not say when it would. DailyNews