BUSINESS enterprises that were destroyed during violent protests in January 2019 are set to reopen after Government availed affordable loans to business owners, with security forces already on the ground reconstructing destroyed buildings.
A team of Zimbabwe’s security forces comprising members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) started refurbishing the buildings three weeks ago.
This is a countrywide exercise and in Bulawayo the project started at Nyandeni Shopping Centre in New Magwegwe and will move to Mountain View shops in Lobengula West followed by Pumula East shops, among others being restored to their state before January 14, 2019.
During the destructive protests targeting cities, Bulawayo suffered the most damages.
Businesses in the city lost goods and property worth millions of dollars after violent protesters went on a looting spree and in some cases torched the buildings after looting.
Supermarkets, service stations, butcheries, pharmacies, bottle stores and bars were targeted.
Some motorists had their vehicles set on fire. Hooligans, mostly marauding youths, barricaded streets using drums, trolleys, burning tyres and stones during a three-day nationwide stay away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and other civil society organisations aligned to the opposition MDC-Alliance.
In an interview yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Cde Raj Modi said Government was just fulfilling what it had promised, but could not immediately provide the amounts of money involved.
“As was promised by the Government, people were given money to restore their businesses. Those who approached the responsible offices were assisted and for those who have not yet been assisted, they will definitely be assisted.
This is a process. On the refurbishment part, it’s a part of the process where we as Government are helping our people whose shops where vandalised during the January 14, 2019 demonstrations,” he said.
The Deputy Minister could not say how much the businesses were being given as that depends on the scale of damage suffered during the looting.
He said the loans are to be repaid at an affordable rate.
“How much one gets depends on how much they lost during the destruction, and the loans are affordable to all depending on the size of the business damaged. The programme is open for all and no one is forced to bounce back to business through the Government’s initiative, some of the people used their own money and right now they are established and for some they approached me and I am definitely going to help them,” said the deputy minister.
Works at a damaged supermarket belonging to Mrs Nomsa Sobantu’s family are nearing completion in New Magwegwe.
A Chronicle news crew which visited the site saw builders under the supervision of Warrant Officer Class Two (W02) Tawanda Happymore Chadho from 1 Engineers squadron busy carrying out final touches on the building.
Mrs Sobantu said she was relieved that the Government has chipped in to rehabilitate her family’s Hozani Supermarket which was burnt down during the 2019 January violent protests.
Mrs Sobantu said Government did not provide her with hard cash to initiate the rehabilitation works but brought materials and soldiers who are reconstructing the building.
“I’m so, so grateful for what the Government has done because every time I visited that shop after it was burnt down, I would break down. I had no means of fixing the shop and we didn’t know where we would have got the money to reconstruct it,” she said.
“These days I’m overjoyed just seeing the work that has been done. We are not paying the soldiers anything and they have promised to complete the building by the end of February. We hope when it’s finished, we will manage to get a client who will rent the shop so that we also manage to pay back the Government loan which has a 10-year tenure.”
Mrs Sobantu said the destruction of the shop brought financial challenges to her family as they were no longer getting monthly rentals.
Locals who spoke to the news crew bemoaned the destruction of the shops saying unscrupulous tuck shop owners are now charging them exorbitantly for goods they used to get from Hozani Supermarket at affordable prices.
One resident, Mr Theophilus Mabandla, said the hardships that they have faced have taught them not to turn a blind eye again when shops are being destroyed during protests. “My friend, now if we see someone trying to destroy our shops, we will deal with that person. We have learnt a lesson of our life. Just imagine going to town to buy salt, sugar, matches in this lockdown. No, it is not good at all. We thank the Government for giving us another chance. I don’t think we will do it again as a community,” said Mr Mabandla.