Gweru Industry Giants Asleep While Vendors Rise

By Mark Mhukayesango

GWERU-August 3, 2015-ONCE A thriving industry, Gweru has been reduced to a pale shadow of its former self with most light and heavy industries either deserted
or operating below capacity.
The heart of country which used to be the hub of companies like
ZimAlloys, Zimcast, Zimglass and Bata is now dominated by vendors after industry took a knock following a decade long recession.
In an exclusive interview with the Gweru Mayor, Hamutendi Kombayi on the state of industry, the mayor said revival of the city’s industries was top of the agenda although it would take longer than anticipated.
With the city’s poverty levels hovering at around 60 percent ,
families have resorted to vending for survival as companies continue to terminate contracts  in the wake of the July 17 Supreme Court
ruling.
“The city’s industries were once the major employers, however due to the current depression most of them are operating under 30 percent,”
Kombayi told Radio VOP.
“The city’s economy is held by vendors, hairdressers, market
gardening. This has thus reduced the disposable income for most families, hence their inability to pay rates,” he said.
Gweru is at the heart of the great, a reservoir of vast minerals but is reeling from abject poverty.
“About 80 percent of our population is unemployed. This not sustainable in a modern society,” Kombayi said.
Companies like Zimglass are sitting on $200 000 worth of glass but ironically the sole glass manufacturer in Zimbabwe is failing to
supply the local market.
The company is currently looking for over $6 million in investment to resume operations.
Bata on the other hand has been operating slightly above 30 percent, while exporting canvass and tommy tennis shoes to Latin America and South Africa respectively.
The biggest shoe manufacturing company in Zimbabwe has also roped in local shoe manufacturers, providing them with equipment so as to
optimise capacity.
Kombayi painted a gloomy picture of the local industry, but remained optimistic that the once thriving industry would get back on its feet.
“There is still a remnant of industry in Gweru and that gives hope for the Thousands of graduates that are churned out from our tertiary institutions. It is however not enough to cater for millions of our youths whose future looks bleak,” said Kombayi.
Speaking to Radio VOP, Gweru residents said they could soon follow the great trek to Harare and South Africa like their peers due to hardships.
Messiah Muchairi, a foreign currency dealer and Pastor said he was living from hand to mouth with barely anything to save for a rainy
day.
“All I get from my day’s work is for consumption and I’m left with nothing to save. My children’s face an uncertain future because my income can barely educate them,” Muchairi said.
Muchairi, a devout Christian believes God is the answer to Zimbabwe’s woes.
Melody Magwenzi survives from vegetable vending , but last week she was dealt a heavy blow when her vending stall along with 21 others
were razed to ashes by a fire allegedly started by security guards at Kombayi market.
“I am at the crossroads as we speak, because my stall was gutted by fire. I dread going back to the streets because council police will always demand something. It is difficult to leave in Gweru these days,” Magwenzi said.
“I don’t believe poverty is only 60 percent because most people can barely make it throughout the month,” she added.
Last week 22 vending stalls at Kombayi Market were razed to the ground, with farm produce worth thousands destroyed adding to the vendors’ misery.
Gweru United Residents Association (GURA)
chairperson ,Cornelius Selipiwe said :”City fathers need to understand that most residents have less disposable income. As such rates should be reduced so that residents can afford to pay.”
“We have many cases of our members who are evicted due to defaulting rentals. I think more should be done to empower our people so that they afford to a descent living,” he added.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) past president, Trust Chikohora said stalled companies like Zisco Steel need to be operational so as to affect downstream industries in Gweru.
“The deal has been stalled for years. We all know that Gweruindustries like ZimAlloys benefited immensely from the company. If it is operational , many other businesses and light industries in Gweru
will boom,” Chikohora said.
The liquidity crunch has even  affected the property market, with most flat dwellers deserting flats for cheaper accommodation, whilst many
offices have been left derelict due to exorbitant rentals.
Kombayi admitted that the city’s road network was in dire need of resurfacing, adding that good roads were crucial for industrial recovery.
“Roads should be resurfaced every five years, but that has not been case. This is a hindrance to the performance of the existing
industry,” Kombayi said.
Over $200 million is required for road rehabilitation, while $2.5 million is needed for water reticulation.
Although the future of Gweru industry looks gloomy, the tourism and hospitality sector is taking shape.
The American Embassy revived the reconstruction of the Naletale Ruins for tourist attraction.
The Hospitality industry has also been on the rise as local hoteliers like Village Lodge, Suburban and Fairmile have made great strides
towards providing accommodation.