One of the country’s largest fero-chrome production companies African Chrome fields (ACF) has shut down operations in Kwekwe laying off over 500 workers
The company is owned by South African businessman Zunaid Moti. Kudakwashe Tagwirei of Sakunda Energy is believed to have shares as well is the second largest chrome company interms of employment and production.
In an interview Moti said he was under pressure to pull out of Zimbabwe because of global negativity about the country and the failing economy was affecting operations at ACF in Kwekwe where he invested over US$250 million.
The drastic drop of chrome price in China has also highly impacted the company after 5 years from its establishment.
“Some people would not want to do business with us because we are in Zimbabwe. But economic meltdown in the Southern African country has also caused a negetive impact as well,” Moti said.
ACF became a force to recogn in the chrome mining sector competing with Zimasco after it invested over a $200million in the construction of an aluminiothermic plant and six other plants that would generate 10 000 tonnes of ultra-low carbon ferro chrome per month within 11 months.
Its establishment in 2014 came as a reprieve to the Kwekwe community after a Chinese investor had failed to run the country’s largest chrome smelting company Zimasco laying off thousands of workers in Kwekwe.
ACF cited along the Kwekwe-Mvuma highway has the largest smelting fero-chrome plants after Zimasco gave its other kwekwe plants to another South African Potnex Private Limited.
Workers’ representative Chaipa Magura said company management in a meeting held on the 6th of September agreed to stop further retrenchment but workers will recieve salaries while away at ACF sites except for security details who are to guard the company until further communication has been effected.
“After consultation between all present, the parties agreed that management pays outstanding salaries and workers shall be called to work when need arises with a seven day notice. As for now security details are to remain at the sites,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from Mines and Development Minister Winston Chitando were fruitless as he contiuously said he was busy to respond.
A senior official in the mines ministry said the drastic drop of chrome price in China (the country’s sole market) has seriously affected many chrome companies’ operations in Zimbabwe.
“Its not only ACF that has been affected but we have big companies such as Nelson in Gweru that have been hammered by the drop in chrome price. We currently have China as our major market and they recently announced the drop in price with over 40percent,” said the official who could not be named for security reasons.