Bleak future for Bulawayo firms

Bleak future for Bulawayo firms
Published: 19 January 2012 (2322 Views)
BULAWAYO - Inexplicable delays in the disbursement of the much-awaited Distressed Indu-stries and Marginalised Areas Fund (DIMAF) have left most companies clutching at the straws for survival as they open for the New Year under a cloud of uncertainty.

More than 90 companies have closed shop in Bulawayo since 2010, with more than 20 000 workers thrown into the streets.

Factories of some of the city's major companies, among them Hunyani Holdings, National Blankets and Merlin, have beco-me white elephants.

To roar back to life, most companies are pinning their hope on the release of DIMAF.

But executives canvassed by The Financial Gazette' Companies & Markets revealed that they could not make forecasts for this year because they have no working capital, fuelling concerns that even more companies could close down this year.

The US$40 DIMAF - a joint partnership between Old Mutual Zimbabwe and the coalition government - was officially launched in Bulawayo in October by Finance Minister, Tendai Biti last year.

However, nearly four months down the line, not a single cent has been availed to the tottering businesses and the closed ones.  

Ruth Labode, president of the Matabeleland chapter of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, said most businesses were failing to make forecasts because of the dire financial squeeze she blamed on the harsh trading environment.

"How do we start planning for the New Year when we still do not have money? We are basically at a stalemate; nothing has changed from last year. We are still lobbying for government to speed up the disbursement of DIMAF so that we can start planning", she said.

Peter Mkhwananzi, chairperson of the Matabeleland Busi-nesses Association, said the situation was quite depressing as the city desperately needed cash injections to kick-start business in the New Year.

"We have been trying to follow DIMAF for more than five months now and the general feeling now is that of frustration.

"By now that money should have been distributed and companies would be making their yearly forecasts. Instead, we are forced to wait", he complained.

What remained of the manufacturing sector in the second city are mere factory shells.

The industry is fighting a losing battle, losing ground to imported products, which are cheaper and of better quality. To make matters worse, most people in the Matabeleland region work in the civil service and have very little disposable income to stimulate demand.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Matabeleland regional manager, Bulisani Ncube, said the main challenge that wo-uld hamper bu-sinesses this year was the talk of elections.

"It is a bit difficult to make forecasts for this year. The main challenge is going to be worries about elections.

"Elections in our country have always been accompanied by violence,and that is not good for business", he said."As for DIMAF, we are eagerly awaiting its disbursement and we hope it will boost our industries.

The Minister of Industry and Commerce (Welshman Ncube), said it was coming and we believe him", added Ncube.

- fingaz

Tags: Bleak, Bulawayo, Firms,
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