Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
BULAWAYO business people have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with private investors from Botswana to supply fuel into the city and setting up investments in different economic sectors in the province.
The deal, which would see Bulawayo business people and their counterparts co-operating in different areas, was facilitated by the office of the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, Cde Judith Ncube, through the Bulawayo industry think-tank.
In an interview after the signing of the MoU at Minister Ncube’s offices housed at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex on Friday, chairperson of the Bulawayo advisory board and think-tank Mr Kwanele Hlabangana said:
“Our thrust is to create employment in Bulawayo. We believe that the Government can do all it can but as a business community, we also have to play our part so we are sharing our knowledge and experience in business to complement Government efforts to turnaround the economy.
“The fuel situation in the country is dire as you can see from the long queues and therefore the intervention by the Botswana business people has come at the right time. They have promised to give us enough quantities of fuel to meet the city’s demands.”
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi also attended the signing ceremony.
The business delegation was led by Mr Kelebogile Shomanah, the managing director of Hangana, a diversified Botswana-headquartered concern with interest in petroleum, mining and manufacturing, among others.
Mr Hlabangana said in light of the prevailing supply gap, the Botswana investors were looking at starting with the fuel venture in Bulawayo before going national.
“We are ready and very excited. The investors have not only proposed to invest in the fuel sector but are also going to do manufacturing, diamond and pharmaceuticals.
Mr Hlabangana said following the signing of the MoU, they will soon convene a meeting with all the city’s fuel dealers to work out how they can access the Botswana fuel.
“We have come up with good fuel prices but I cannot tell you the figures now. All what I can say now is that we are going to offer the public very good prices and also make sure that each and every filling station in the city has access to this fuel. In terms of supply, they have promised us that they will be able to supply on a daily basis. We are expecting more than two million litres per day of both diesel and petrol that will be coming through South Africa,” said Mr Hlabangana.
He said they have set up a revolving fund, which was a 30-day payment where the local fuel dealers would be able to pay for the supplied fuel within a month.
“We will be getting the fuel on consignment and only when we have sold it that’s when we will pay the suppliers,” said Mr Hlabangana.
In a separate interview, Hangana legal representative Mr Lewis Maunze said the MoU opened opportunities for them to invest in various economic projects in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe at large.
“Minister Ncube’s office was there to facilitate our interaction with various stakeholders in Bulawayo. For our projects, the most urgent one is to address the fuel shortage.
“We supply diesel, petrol, kerosene and even aviation fuel and what is urgent for most people is diesel and petrol.
“We really need to supply those as soon as possible but I’m sure we have to go through these processes guided by the MoUs we signed,” he said.
Minister Ncube said the Botswana businesspeople approached her office expressing their desire to invest in Bulawayo and Zimbabwe at large.
“In our deliberations they have indicated that they once got some assistance from Zimbabwe when they were facing challenges hence they were keen to invest in the country.
“Our priority is to address the fuel shortage and they have said they are ready to assist us. They are also talking about investments in the pharmaceutical industry which I need to first talk to the Minister of Health and Child Care (Dr Obadiah Moyo),” she said.
Once the country’s industrial hub, Bulawayo lost a number of companies that either closed or relocated in the last few years due to economic challenges.
Under the Second Republic led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Government has adopted the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra with a view to rebuild the economy by attracting foreign direct investments from all over the world. — @okazunga