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Business wary of elections

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NYANGA — Industry has expressed fears over looming general elections, saying the forthcoming polls could trigger collapse of the under-financed manufacturing sector.

Officially opening the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress yesterday, CZI president Kumbirai Katsande said tough times lay ahead of the manufacturing sector as the country prepared for watershed general elections expected next year.

“We know that some of our companies will not be in existence this time next year unless something improves,” Katsande said.

“Difficult times are before us.

“Our plea to politicians is that they spare some thought for the economy, otherwise it will be difficult to pick up the pieces after the elections.
“As elections pick up steam, we are going to be tested on our maturity and non-partisan stance.”

Katsande said although capacity utilisation had improved in some sectors, including beverages and tobacco processing, some key sectors such as pharmaceutical and paper and pulp industries were teetering on the brink of collapse.

“We are faced with collapsing manufacturing companies — food processing, agro-chemicals, pharmaceutical and grain milling,” he added.

Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube, in a speech read on his behalf by his deputy Mike Bimha, said the manufacturing sector was in dire straits.

“Unfortunately we are meeting today when the situation in the industry, and the manufacturing sectors in particular, is facing serious threats to its survival,” Ncube said.

“Over the last 12 months we have seen many companies close and many jobs lost.”

Speaking at the same event, Manicaland governor Christopher Mushohwe said challenges besetting the erstwhile food processing giant Cairns Holding were threatening lives of thousands of livelihoods in the province. Cairns has over the last few months shut down its canning factory in Mutare and a pasta factory in Bulawayo.

“Manicaland . . . is fast losing Cairns Holdings, which is the lifeline of thousands of small-scale and communal agro and horticultural growers in Honde Valley, Eastern Highlands and Rusitu Valley. PG Glass, once the pride of Zimbabwe, is snowballed, while Karina Carpets is threatened with liquidation.”

According to the CZI, other companies that have closed shop since the beginning of the year include Lion Matches, Hunyani Mill and Art Paper Mill in Mutare.

The manufacturing sector, which is facing stiff competition from regional peers because of its antiquated technology, requires $2 billion to recapitalise.

This year, the sector is projected to grow by 6% driven by resurgence in tobacco and cotton output.

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