BY SILAS NKALA
Bulawayo City Council is engaging the local business community to spearhead the development and revival of industries.
This was revealed by council spokesperson Bongiwe Ngwenya yesterday in a notice to the media and stakeholders.
“The City of Bulawayo is engaging the business community as they are a key stakeholder in the development of the city. To this end, company visits are planned … Visits will also cover companies that have made improvements to their infrastructure and business,” Ngwenya said.
The local authority had planned to embark on company tours from yesterday until Friday, but has postponed the visits to a later date.
The business entities that the council plans to engage include Selbourne Hotel, Bulawayo Leather Cluster, Silwane Tours (Umguza Nature Reserve), Bathroom Boutique, Lobels, Motsamai Pride and Terracotta.
The engagement process comes at a time the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said an estimated 13 000 people in the western region had lost their jobs in the past 12 months due to company closures as a result of the economic crisis.
The ZCTU’s western region caters for workers in Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and North.
ZCTU Western Region chair Ambrose Sibindi said the industry in Bulawayo was operating at slightly more than 20% capacity.
“But the reality is that industry in Bulawayo is operating at around 20% of the potential capacity, taking into consideration company closures, retrenchments and scaling down of operations,” Sibindi said.
“The few workers still at work, majority of who are on contract or are subject to all kinds of abuse, are just working in order to serve their jobs. The invasion of industry by Asian companies has brought more misery than joy as such companies have no respect for Zimbabwe labour laws.”
Sibindi said Bulawayo was hit hard by company closures, hence the high unemployment rate.
“For instance, in 2014 we were talking of 20 000 employees that lost their jobs, in 2017 we were talking of 35 000 people, ” he said.
Bulawayo has experienced massive de-industrialisation since 2009 as thousands of companies closed shop, with others relocating to Harare.
Companies which have faced closure and relocation include Merlin, David Whitehead Limited, Textile Mills, Belmore Manufacturers and Ascot Clothing. National Blankets and Security Mills are under judicial management, while the Cold Storage Company, National Railways of Zimbabwe, Dunlop Zimbabwe and Archer Clothing have down-sized, leaving thousands jobless.
Sibindi said the few operational companies dealing in transport, textiles and furniture, among others, were still using obsolete machinery.