ELSEWHERE on these pages, we publish three articles that poignantly debunk the myth that Bulawayo is a dying city, bereft of any meaningful economic activity and edging towards ghost city status.
For years following the mass closure and relocation of industries from the city to Harare, there has been an air of hopelessness with Bulawayans seemingly content to accept their fate — that their once proud city was on the brink of death, literally.
From being the country’s industrial capital, Bulawayo degenerated into a pale shadow of its former self with factories in the Belmont Industrial site turned into places of worship for pentecostal churches. But that is slowly changing with companies such as United Refineries and Datlabs leading the way in the manufacturing sector revival.
Thanks to Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, steel makers are also making a remarkable recovery while millers such as Blue Ribbon and National Foods have scaled up their production levels. Bakers such as Lobels, Bakers Inn and Proton are also doing well.
According to our lead story in the Business Chronicle, Monarch Steel, a division of Treger Group of Companies, has recorded 167 percent increase in export volumes since last year buoyed by Government’s measures to support local industries. This has seen the company clinch lucrative deals to supply its products in the regional market having recorded a turnover of about $9 million.
Speaking after a tour of Bulawayo companies, recently, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister, Chiratidzo Mabuwa, said: “I was really impressed to note that Monarch Steel is one of the companies that Government has assisted through a number of policy initiatives to improve its operations. I have been informed that the company has improved its exports from last year by 167 percent and that it realised a turnover of $9 million.
“The company is also expanding its exports in the region. I have been informed that Monarch Steel secured a deal to supply 750 kitchen units per month to a South African company effective this September”.
Monarch Steel managing director Mr Fritzpatrick Mawovera said: “Our volume of export currently, we are doing Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and a limited volumes of exports into the northern province of South Africa.
“Export volumes have increased but they have not yet reached the level that we want them to be. Last year there was a serious constraint on our exports primarily because of pricing through the five percent export incentives that has grown our exports by 167 percent”. In another positive development for the city — Kentucky Fried Chicken — a United States fast food franchise has opened a branch in Bradfield suburb, almost 10 years after closing shop due to economic challenges.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko was one of the first customers to visit the newly opened KFC outlet on Sunday. In an interview, the Vice President said he visited the fast food outlet to support local business in the city. “We are delighted about the new development in the city. At least people now have an additional meeting place in the city and we are happy about the new development,” said VP Mphoko who was with his family.
His son Mr Siqokoqela Mphoko took the opportunity to dismiss as false allegations that there was tribal segregation in hiring workers at the KFC branch.
“There is no such thing as this company employed people from outside Bulawayo. All we know is that 40 trainers came from Harare to help staffers from Bulawayo familiarise themselves with the system and operations of the business,” said Mr Mphoko.
On our Showbiz page, we publish an article on the imminent opening of a Ster-Kinekor cinema house. The company is now searching for workers that will man the stations when the movie house opens in the city next month at the Rainbow Cinemas movie house at Bulawayo Centre.
On their Facebook page, Ster-Kinekor Zimbabwe issued a vacancy notice for Bulawayo saying they are looking for controllers, cashiers and cinema agents who should all be from the city. Clearly, something is happening in Bulawayo on the economic front and the notion that the city is dying could be just that – a myth. Following the declaration of the leather and textile industries as a Special Economic Zone, the city could soon be attracting investors in these sectors, further accelerating the revitalisation of industries in the city.
The ball is now in the city fathers’ court – they need to aggressively market the city to the right investors. The revival of Bulawayo requires unity of purpose with political expediency playing second fiddle to the need to get industries working again.
Government has set the ball rolling by removing the hurdles impeding the ease of doing business and demonstrated its commitment to creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Companies like Monarch are showing that it is possible to operate profitably in Bulawayo.