Captains of industry and commerce have expressed concern at the continued relocation of companies from Bulawayo saying this impacted negatively on the growth of the city.
These sentiments came from delegates that attended the chief executive officers’ Africa Roundtable meeting last week.
“I have heard a lot of people complaining about the demise of industry in Bulawayo following company relocations,” said one delegate from Harare.
“In the years gone by, Bulawayo was just like the ‘Johannesburg’ of Zimbabwe. People came from countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Kenya just to come and work here. Those days are gone.”
Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu, who was one of the keynote speakers together with Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, also expressed concern at the relocations.
Mpofu, however, said there was need for a “collective approach” to the issue.
“We have a problem which needs a strategy,” Mpofu said.
“The problem with people in Matabeleland is that we are not united. We want to divide ourselves along political lines instead of working together,” he said, before revealing that he had a good working relationship with Khupe even though they came from different political parties.
Khupe said she moved a motion in Parliament in 2001 about the relocation of companies from Bulawayo.
“It is a very big concern for us. We want to see industries opening up again in Bulawayo,” she said.
“The answer to the problem lies in ensuring that businesspeople have access to loans with a longer repayment period as well as low interest rates.”
Khupe said the government and the banking sector should seriously look into the matter. Early this year, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion deputy minister Samuel Undenge told Parliament during a question-and-answer session that many companies in Bulawayo had closed down while others had relocated to Botswana.
“Up to last year, 19 companies in the clothing sector, 64 in motor industry, three in the construction industry, and one in the pharmaceutical industry closed down. Some companies relocated to Botswana thus exacerbating the problem,” Undenge said.
Bulawayo was the industrial hub of Zimbabwe with around 75% of manufacturing activity centred here.