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Massive Company Closures in Bulawayo Spark Questions, Not Solutions

The massive closure of companies in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, has for the past year or so been a subject of many round-table discussions, conferences, a ministerial task force and in some cases, political bickering.

The politics surrounding the revival of the city’s fortunes has at times turned the debate from being an economic one to one of political mileage with politicians making political hay of the issue, especially when they visit what's supposed to be the county's industrial capital.

Questions have been raised on whether this is a genuine attempt to bring the city to its former glory or just another political gimmick to sway the Matabeleland electorate.

The Distressed and Marginalized Areas Fund or DIMAF is one such attempt. Nearly a year after its launch, DIMAF has almost become a dirty word as the hype and promises that came with its launch have failed to deliver.

Businesswoman Ruth Labode says centralization in Harare, the capital, is at the core of Bulawayo’s industrial challenges. "Capital always follows power and currently all power is centrally located in Harare," Ladode observes.

Industry Minister Welshman Ncube says government’s failure to meet its obligations has made it difficult for him to intervene with CABS bank on behalf of the distressed companies amid reports that the financial institution has set stringent loan conditions for those seeking to access the rescue package.

Meanwhile, as politicians, businesspeople and social commentators continue to haggle over the reasons causing company closures in Bulawayo, more than 20,000 people who lost their jobs in the city continue to walk the streets trying a hand at anything that might put bread on their tables.

They continually hope that political leaders will stop squabbling and work to restore the dignity of the worker in the city of smoky fires or Kontuthu Ziyathunqa in the local Ndebele dialect.

For perspective on company closures not only in Bulawayo but most parts of the country, VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo turned to independent political analyst Livingstone Dzikira and deputy organizing secretary Abednico Bhebhe of the Tsvangirai MDC formation, who is also Bulawayo-based businessman.

Bhebhe said the government failed to come up with sound economic plans that would have helped sustain Bulawayo as the country’s industrial hub.

Dzikira disagreed saying the issues of failed industry span throughout the whole of Zimbabwe and no region has been untouched.