INDUSTRIES in Mutare have receded into a comatose state as factories that used to drive the province’s industrial engine have been reduced to empty shells.
A recent snap survey of former huge business entities by NewsDay during a recent tour of distressed industries by the Minister of State in the President’s Office Didymus Mutasa showed that most of the industries were operating below 20% capacity.
A host of challenges, including under-capitalisation, high production costs and competition from foreign products are cited as the push factors that have hounded some big economic players out of business.
Manicaland Business Action Group (MBAG) advisor Bezel Nyabadza described the situation as dire, adding that urgent intervention should be considered by both the government and private sector.
“We visited a graveyard of companies who were yesterday household names and they are now history,” he said.
“What we saw in some of the companies needs maximum intervention.
“We need a community trust which should be generating revenue for the province.”
The struggling companies include Manicaland Bricks, Cairns Foods, Mutare Board and Paper Mills, Fusalite, Karina and Quest Motors.
At Mutare Cairns Foods — a former leading jam, baked beans and tomato sauce producer — the operations director Joseph Mavu said they were now operating below 10% and they had been forced to lay off more than 500 workers.
The future, he said, was gloomy.
He said they were facing stiff competition from cheap foreign products.
Mutare Board and Paper Mills is now an empty shell without any sign of life.
The machinery has been dismounted and the factories have been converted into backyard garages, restaurants and schools.
For years, the eastern border city has been sustained by the forestry industry, but now almost every company dealing with timber production has been pushed out of business.
Officials at Manica Board and Doors said they were, however, recovering from poor production following the recent capitalisation of their operations.
One of the largest glass producers in the country, Afri-Safety Glass Private Limited, who are manufacturers of fusalite safety glass, had the capacity to produce more than 50 000 units of windscreens per month, but due to poor business they were operating below capacity.
Quest Motors Corporation, one of the biggest car assemblers in Zimbabwe and has been in the business for more than 60 years, has also fallen on hard times.
Quest Motor Corporation director Tarik Adam urged the government to treat the case as a matter of urgency.
“We are currently facing stiff challenges in the automobile industry in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“We are currently operating at less than 5% capacity, which is not sustainable.
“We find that new cars are coming across the border from South Africa and these cars are being subsidised by the South African government.
“How can we compete with these companies when they have government subsidies?
“We need to protect our industries for our country’s future. Our government must intervene.”
The list of distressed industries in Mutare is endless and MBAG members suggested that the government must make the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund a reality and help struggling companies in Manicaland to avert social disaster.
MBAG spokesperson Charles Samuriwo said political will was needed among all the stakeholders in the province to save the situation.
He also expressed concern on the fate of thousands of employees laid off following the closure of several industries.
Mutasa said the government will explore ways of assisting several distressed industries in Mutare.