Hope for revival of Bulawayo industry?

During President Mugabe’s inauguration after Zanu (PF)‘s controversial election victory in July, he promised that his new administration would fight hard to revive Bulawayo’s commerce and industry. At the time, he described the city as an “industrial scrapyard”. Five months after the elections, the city remains a scrapyard and there are indications that more companies are likely to close next year.

“The Zanu (PF) government has no clue of how to revive Bulawayo’s industries and the whole economy.” – Gorden Moyo.
“The Zanu (PF) government has no clue of how to revive Bulawayo’s industries and the whole economy.” – Gorden Moyo.

“The Zanu (PF) government has no clue of how to revive Bulawayo’s industries and the whole economy. The year 2014 will be like 2008 going backyards,” said Gorden Moyo, the former minister of state enterprises and parastatals.

Moyo, the Bulawayo MDC-T provincial chair, said his party and the Bulawayo City Council had come up with a revival plan for Bulawayo.

“Our revival plan will be anchored on the construction of infrastructure such as houses in the city. This construction will also trigger and promote downstream economic activities that will create employment for residents,” said Moyo.

He added that the MDC-T was waiting for the establishment of metropolitan councils as enshrined in the new constitution to start the projects.

“We want these councils to be constituted as soon as possible so that we can start working for the betterment of our regions. We want to make our own decisions at local level,” he said.

The MDC-T dominated council has come up with a variety of investor incentives set to boost business.

David Coltart, former education minister and MDC Bulawayo South senator, one of the constituencies hardest hit by the company closures, said Bulawayo‘s industrial woes were likely to worsen unless there was a major policy shift in government.

“Until government takes the steps necessary to boost investor confidence, the situation will continue. If the government is serious about attracting the necessary domestic and foreign investment, it needs to formally abandon its indigenisation policy,” he said.

Coltart said the future of Bulawayo was dependent on the South African market.

“Bulawayo’s biggest market is in South Africa. Bulawayo is uniquely positioned to exploit its unused industrial space to service the vast market of that region but, to do so, lines of communication should be dramatically improved,” he said.

Councillor Mlandu Ncube said chances for the revival of Bulawayo industries continued to fade each passing day.

“My ward, which covers the central business district, is one of the most affected wards as a number of shops have closed during the past five months. If something is not done as a matter of urgency, a lot of companies will not be able to open next year due to viability challenges,” said Ncube.

A 2011 report, published by the industry and commerce ministry, said nearly 90 companies had closed in Bulawayo, leaving 20,000 workers jobless. Among the causalities were Merlin Textiles, the Zimbabwe Engineering Company, Hubert Davies, Radar Metal Industries, National Blankets and G and D Shoes.

“It has been over two years since that report came out and there are no indications that the situation can be salvaged. We are likely to see that trend next year because of the serious challenges facing the economy,” said Mark Tshuma, a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology.

Tshuma said the government’s continued engagement of Chinese companies had yet to bring about the necessary results.

“The Chinese are only interested in the extractive sector like mining and wildlife. Their deals are more individual-centred than about revamping our industries and creating employment,” said Tshuma.

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