100 days under Covid-19 lockdown

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In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, industry and the general public in Manicaland are fast adapting to the new way of doing business, with some industries operating at between 65 and 70 percent capacity utilisation, The Manica Post has established.

On Tuesday, the country clocked 100 days under lockdown.

Since May, the nation has been under Level Two lockdown, with most businesses operating.

Strict health guidelines have been adopted, while new operational models are now in place at most workplaces.

Although many businesses might not attain projected targets due to the lost production time under lockdown, most people’s job remain secure, at least according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI).

CZI regional president, Mrs Victoria Jakazi said the average capacity utilisation for local industries is now at 51 percent.

“While some companies are operating at between 65 and 70 percent capacity utilisation, the average is 51 percent. This is due to slow uptake of goods by the market, especially the downstream ones that re-opened after consirable time under lockdown.

“Almost everyone is now back at work, but the liquidity crunch remains a challenge. We are grappling with raising enough foreign currency for our raw materials as well as spare parts for our plants and machinery as most of them are imported from South Africa, China and other countries.

“When we do manage to place orders, deliveries are taking too long to be made due to the borders’ closures,” she said.

Mrs Jakazi said none of their members has hinted on retrenching workers.

“With the new normal, we are pushing to gain the market share, both locally and regionally. Targets cannot be met because of the lost time, but companies are guaranteeing job security.

“We urge Government to continue ensuring stability of the dollar. Volatile exchange rates will affect production.”

The newly introduced foreign exchange auction seems to be working wonders in this regard and is expected to give fair value of the local currency in relation to the United States dollar.

The system is curtailing the forex black market as corporates can now buy US dollars and other currencies on a formal official platform.

Mrs Jakazi also spoke about the importance of having our own currency.

“Our own currency gives us a better competitive edge. In a dollarised economy, locally produced goods become very expensive and will not be able to compete with regionally produced goods.”

She added that to ensure more efficiency, the major cost pushers – fuel and electricity – should always be availabile.

Business unusual

Shawa Mine, which is located in Buhera and specialises in vermiculite extraction, has upped its production while ensuring strict adherence to Covid-19 safety measures.

Shawa Mine manager, Mr Alfred Zezekwa, said production levels have gone up due to the continuous availability of electricity.

“This year, our projections were to mine a monthly average of 35 000 tonnes of vermiculite and increase to 40 000 next year until we reach our target of 50 000 tonnes. We are almost there, but since we are operating with skeletal staff, we might not reach our projections.

“Our operations are guided by the recommended Covid-19 safety measures, including physical distancing in the workplace and temperatures checks, among others. The staff operating from home are called in when they are required,” said Mr Zezekwa.

Vendors come to the party

The Mutare City Council’s move to decentralise vegetable markets to residential areas seem to be paying dividends as people no longer have to travel into town to buy fruits and vegetables.

A vendor in Dangamvura, Ms Charity Marange, said business is now picking up as more people are now flocking the produce market.

“Residents are now accustomed to this new market and the returns are pleasing. We have managed to cut on transport costs as farmers and traders are bringing their produce here. We hope this will be a permanent arrangement because markets should be near residents.

“At first we thought this would not work out, but business has now improved. Unlike some tuckshops that are not accepting bond notes and coins, we are capitalising on that as most of our customers are using them to buy our fresh farm produce,” said Ms Marange.

“We implore Mutare City Council to continue decentralising the markets. Some people from areas like Mai Maria, Area 16, Gimboki and Pegasus are still walking long distances to reach the decentralised markets,” she said.

Silver lining shines through

A Chikanga resident, Mr Joe Machingauta, said the Covid-19 pandemic came with a lot of lessons.

“This pandemic has taught us to respect the sanctity of human life. In addition, everyone is striving to maintain good personal hygiene, which is a good thing. We used to ignore the need to wash hands but we are now strictly adhering to that, which not only saves us from Covid-19, but other diseases as well.

“Most of us have also been taking precautionary measures such that many people have been sparred from suffering from colds and coughs that usually come with winter.

“Hopefully this trend will continue beyond Covid-19,” he said.

— Manica Post


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