Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE 21-day lockdown in South Africa due to the outbreak of Covid-19 is likely to constrain local industry operations as the country depends on imports from the neighbouring country, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), has said.
Already local companies have started adjusting their operations in line with protective guidelines with some Bulawayo firms opting for a temporary shutdown or partial closure. CZI national vice president, Mr Joseph Gunda, confirmed yesterday that some city companies have opted to suspend operations.
“We are observing and seeing what’s happening because this is a pandemic that no-one can predict. It’s a very difficult situation we are in. As we are speaking some companies also have taken the approach to lockdown and its dependent on each individual companies to set themselves regarding the directive given by His Excellency our President (Mnangagwa) and also the guidelines from W.H.O (World Health Organisation) in terms of gatherings,” he said.
Given that South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner where the local industry secures most of its raw materials, Mr Gunda said the lockdown in the neighbouring country will force many local firms to also lockdown.
“If South Africa is closed, it means we are on ‘forced lockdown’ if we may put it that way. Even if we wanted to continue running but we can’t get raw materials through the major port of entry, South Africa, then we have a challenge,” he said.
“Some local business have taken the approach to actually lockdown to avoid the spreading of Covid-19, which from a health point of view is noble especially when you have a situation where your operations involve quite a number of people.”
Yesterday, South Africa began its 21-day lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease as the neighbouring country has recorded over 400 confirmed cases. In Harare, some companies such as TN Gold Arcturus Mine, Turnall, Dairiboard Zimbabwe as well as the Rent Board have responded to reducing the spread of Covid-19 by either locking down or embracing hygienic standards as enunciated by WHO to stop the spreading of the disease. The country’s national export and promotion agency, ZimTrade also said it was taking necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Mr Gunda said there were other situations where machinery in the factory can be operated by one or two people and they can observe a social distance of one metre, such a factory can be allowed to remain operational.
“But I am sure we are all acting responsibly as industry because we know the impact this (pandemic) has had the world over. People are dying massively for instance in Italy and we would not want a similar situation here (Zimbabwe),” he said.
Mr Gunda said from a broader perspective industry was engaging at various levels with Government so that there is a holistic approach and advising the country to tackle the pandemic.
“If you observed what has happened right through the world, we are safer if we take precautions to lockdown earlier rather than wait.
“India right now with 464 confirmed cases of Covid-19, they have already announced a lockdown. Others waited for longer like Italy they waited until the cases were about 6 000, France 28 000 but look then happened, I think they waited far too longer to respond to Covid-19 and by that time the virus had already spread.”- @okazunga.