New Zimbabwe Steel River Pollution, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe


New Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO), one of Africa’s largest Iron and Steel Company based in Redcliff in the town of Kwekwe discharges industrial effluent into the Kwekwe River, thereby severely depreciating its water quality. The company has been facing chronic financial problems which slowed down production since 2008 but is expected to be back at full capacity following a USD750 million investment by an Indian firm, Essar Group. Life in Redcliff revolves around the iron and steel company. A recent research study observed that the Iron and Steel Company ‘discharged high quantities of iron, sulphate, oil and tar into Kwekwe River, making the water unsuitable for irrigation and domestic use’. Kwekwe River drains into Sebakwe River which drains into Munyati. Munyati River flows into Kariba Dam which drains into the might Zambezi River. The discharge of effluent in Kwekwe has far reaching consequences for human, aquatic, animal and plant life downstream. The Environmental Management Agency, tasked to oversee the protection of the environment against pollution, has been described as ‘a lion without teeth’ due to its failure to hold perpetrators of environmental crimes accountable. Enforcing environmental laws at ZISCO is in fact difficult due to the interest of politicians in the company.

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Basic Data
NameNew Zimbabwe Steel River Pollution, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Mineral processing
Other industries
Metal refineries
Specific CommoditiesSteel
Industrial waste
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAt full capacity New Zimbabwe Steel Company produces around 1 million tonnes of iron and steel annually. Production at New Zimbabwe Steel Company had stalled in 2008 due to corruption and asset stripping of the company by senior politicians in Zimbabwe.

Project Area (in hectares)20000
Level of Investment (in USD)1000000000
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population200,000 - 500,000
Company Names or State EnterprisesNew Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company from Zimbabwe
Essar Group from India
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Office of President Mugabe, Environmental Management Agency
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersDepartment of Food Science and Post Harvest Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Environment Africa
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local scientists/professionals
The media
Forms of MobilizationMedia based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Potential: Accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Development of AlternativesMobilizers are proposing that New Zimbabwe Steel Company recycles its waste water. Apart from saving the river from pollution the company will also cut production costs significantly since it owes Redcliff council money in unpaid water bills.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Environmental justice was not served because no remedial action was taken to stop disposing effluent into the Kwekwe river. A Manager at New Zimbabwe Steel Company recently admitted that they were dumping untreated industrial watse water into the river. Environmental Management Agency has done nothing, possibly due to the involvement of politicians at New Zimbabwe Steel Company.
Sources and Materials

Mines and Minerals Act

Environmental Management Act

Regional Town, Country and Planning Act

Hazardous Substances and Article Act

Zimbabwe National Water Authority Act


Jonathan R. Chinhanga Department of Food Science and Post Harvest Technology, Chinhoyi University of Technology
[click to view]

Impact of industrial effluent from an iron and steel company on the physicochemical quality of Kwekwe River water in Zimbabwe.

(see also attached file)


The Hindu, Essar Africa takes control of steel plant in Zimbabwe
[click to view]

Think Africa Press, Zimbabwe Banks on Essar Group for Zisco Revival
[click to view]

Herald, Zisco revival set to create 7 000 jobs
[click to view]

The Zimbabwean, Ziscosteel: A chronically ill giant
[click to view]

Herald, Recycling of water vital
[click to view]

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ContributorFarai Maguwu
Last update08/04/2014
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