Contractors cry foul over awarding of tenders to foreign firms

Mr Obert Sibanda

Mr Obert Sibanda

Business Reporters
THE construction industry is lobbying the government to come up with a law that enforces involvement of local contractors in the implementation of national projects whose tenders have been awarded to foreign firms.

As the government rolls out a number of bulk infrastructure development projects across the country, local contractors claim they are being sidelined and short-changed.

Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association (ZBCA) president, Obert Sibanda, yesterday stressed the need to craft a law that protects interests of local contractors in public projects.

“Foreign contractors don’t consider local labour and local suppliers of construction materials. They bring their workforce and their own building material,” said Sibanda.

“At the end of the day the country isn’t benefiting much since no employment is created for locals and no local supplier is supported. The government should come up with enforceable measures that ensure local involvement in any construction project.”

He claimed major projects like the construction of the Victoria Falls Airport and the upgrading of the Kariba Power Station, for instance, were being undertaken by foreign contractors with minimal involvement of local players.

Sibanda urged players in the construction industry, viewed as one of the pillar sectors in the economy with potential to create massive employment, to stand up and claim their ground.

Reginald Shoko from the Affirmative Action (AAG) Matabeleland Chapter, concurred saying involvement of locals was important for empowerment purposes.

“Indigenisation laws reserve 50 percent procurement to locals but the problem is that there’s a serious disregard for the law. I think Indigenisation Minister Patrick Zhuwao and his Local Government counterpart, Ignatius Chombo, need to stand up and enforce this law,” said Shoko.

“Foreign firms continue to import labour and materials, which we have locally in disregard of the law. Yes, foreign direct investment must come but not at the exclusion of locals.”

Sibanda said adequate support for the local construction sector was critical towards attaining goals set in the country’s economic blue-print, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

“The construction industry is responsible for infrastructural development as we develop roads, buildings and other infrastructure. But we’re also into food and nutrition because we develop dams, farms and support infrastructure used to produce food for the people,” said Sibanda.

He said the sector supported value-addition and beneficiation as it constructs factories and buildings where processing of minerals takes place.

Sibanda said in terms of social services and poverty eradication, the construction industry was the one building schools, hospitals and other social amenities.

He added that it was imperative for the government and other authorities to give immediate attention to a number of challenges the construction sector was facing.

“There’s a misconception that indigenous building contractors don’t provide good service but we’re saying ‘good service comes with good support’ therefore we urge the government and the private sector to help us grow together,” Sibanda said.

He said there was a need for the industry to pull in one direction and help the country grow as the construction sector was an archetype of the country’s economic development.

Most indigenous building contractors are struggling to keep afloat due to limited infrastructural development activities in the country.

Last year, the Construction Industry Federation of Zimbabwe (Cifoz) revealed that the construction industry was operating at between 20 percent and 30 percent capacity.

Cifoz said lack of government and private sector contracts and the liquidity challenges were the major factors contributing to the low capacity utilisation.

It also revealed that lack of huge capital inflows and major national development projects were some of the constraints cited by stakeholders in the construction industry.

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