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Zimbabwe's Distressed Fund Fails to Plug Bulawayo De-industrialization

Industries in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, are yet to benefit from a fund set up by government in October last year amid allegations of politicians dangling the funds as a carrot to entice the region’s electorate ahead of elections and a lack of political will to see the city restored to its former glory as the country’s industrial hub.

Bulawayo’s de-industrialization has already been a subject of many round-table discussions, conferences, a ministerial task force and in some cases, political bickering.

Last year President Robert Mugabe officially launched the Distressed and Marginalized Areas Fund to resuscitate the firms in Bulawayo amid pomp and fanfare.

But lack of action has brought dismay in the City of Kings, once regarded as Zimbabwe’s industrial capital.

To date, at least $3 million has so far been disbursed to 10 companies out of 49 applicants nationwide. Project proposals of up to $73 million have been shelved.

Most residents, business leaders and some opposition political parties say the fund has become a national disgrace.

More than 20,000 people lost their jobs between 2009 and 2010 following a decade of economic decline.