Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT will avail $19,5 million from a special fund set up to assist businesses that were looted and destroyed during last month’s violent protests, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, who was in Bulawayo yesterday leading an inter-ministerial taskforce that was on a tour to assess the extent of the damage caused by the violent protests, said he was shocked by what he saw.
Marauding youths and activists from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and civic society last month went on a rampage, looting shops, destroying infrastructure and attacking police and ordinary citizens during a three-day stayaway organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.
The orgy of violence and mayhem unleashed mainly in the city’s western suburbs saw business people losing stock and property worth millions of dollars.
Speaking during a meeting with various stakeholders at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex, Prof Ncube said Government was committed to assisting businesspeople who were affected by the protests to resuscitate their businesses.
“Hundreds of businesspeople lost property, people lost employment and families were impacted. We therefore want to give them a head start and help them start again. We’ll be setting up a fund to raise the $19, 5 million to assist the business people. We’re here to support businesses and help them recover,” said Prof Ncube.
“We’ll try our best to move as quickly as we can. We’re going to prepare a report and the inter-ministerial committee will present the report to the President and Cabinet. Once approved we’ll then set up a technical committee to manage the disbursement of the funds.”
He said Government would work hard to help the businesses realise a quick turnaround while the disbursement of the funds would also be expedited.
Prof Ncube and his delegation, which also included Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema and Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube, visited the affected businesses in Entumbane, Magwegwe North, Pumula East and South, Sekusile in Nkulumane, Nketa and Tshabalala suburbs.
Speaking after the tour, Prof Ncube expressed shock and disappointment at the extensive damage caused by the protestors in different parts of the city.
He said Government does not condone such behaviour.
“I’m shocked by what I saw and what I was told. Lives were lost and people were threatened. Buildings were literally brought down and it seemed to be a systematic approach, showing that it was well organised,” Prof Ncube said.
“This is the sad part when we see that people are organising themselves to destroy instead of building. There’s a big difference between the two. We don’t condone such behaviour. We condemn using energy in a negative way because it’s a culture that we’re not used to and it should not be encouraged.”
He also discouraged business people from taking advantage of the situation by profiteering at the expense of consumers. “Prices have been rising and this is speculative behaviour and clear profiteering. This is one of the biggest problems we have. Generally, inflation has gone up but we’re doing our best as Government to keep the prices stable and improve supply of commodities.
“We’ve engaged various sectors to speak to them about maintaining prices and still protect their margins. If a loaf of bread is going for $2 it’s a lot of money. In the transport sector we introduced the Zupco buses and there are trains as well providing cheaper transport to help the ordinary people,” said Prof Ncube.
He said in order to keep prices low, Government also introduced a rebate system on fuel for companies.
Earlier in the day, Prof Ncube first held a meeting with a number of stakeholders in the city.
The meeting was attended by Minister Mathema, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Ncube, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council, who is also the chief executive officer at United Refineries, Mr Busisa Moyo, senior Government as well as Zanu-PF and Bulawayo City Council officials.
Officials from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Grain Millers’ Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and the Zimbabwe Retailers’ Association also attended the indaba.
Prof Ncube and his delegation also visited the United Refineries plant in the city to have an appreciation of how the private sector was performing. — @pamelashumba1 .