By Staff Reporter
SMALL and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) players in Kwekwe have told parliamentarians that despite being one of the key employers in the country, the sector was not benefiting from government programmes to sustain its growth.
Kwekwe SMEs Development chairperson Michael Hanyani told the Maybe Mbowa SMEs parliamentary portfolio committee that besides lack of recognition from the government, the sector was also reeling from the effects of Covid-19.
Last year, government ministers Mthuli Ncube (Finance) and Paul Mavima (Social Welfare) announced the state would avail cushioning allowances to SMEs and their employees during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
However, SME operators in Kwekwe told the MPs this has only remained a “pipe dream”.
“We worked with the Social Welfare Department here in Kwekwe. We were expecting SMEs to benefit from the cushioning fund after we had submitted our names to the department but no member was helped,” said Hanyani.
According to the Kwekwe Social Welfare Department, 431 SMEs benefitted from the cushioning fund in the district.
However, Hanyani said the SMEs in the transport sector were also hardest hit after the government banned private kombis from operating.
“We heard that private kombis were supposed to register with ZUPCO. The resistance, however, is not because people do not want to register their kombis, the challenge is that there is no proper explanation on why they must join ZUPCO, and the benefits derived from joining ZUPCO,” he said, adding, “we are not benefitting from these government initiated programmes.”
SMEs advisor to Kwekwe Businesses, Lovemore Phiri said 41 years into independence, the sector was yet to be empowered.
“Zimbabwe is now 41 years into independence a critical question we have to ask is how far have we gone as a country in human empowerment. Empower people within communities. Our SMEs need to be empowered,” he said.
Mbowa concurred that SMEs in the country were faced with teething problems.
“SMEs are the ones who are now controlling the employment base with 76% of the workers. During lockdowns and the Covid-19 period, SMEs were faced with teething challenges. We are talking to SMEs across the country so that we will appreciate the challenges which they are experiencing,” she said.
The biggest challenge currently faced by SMEs, Mbowa said, was lack of capital.
“SMEs no longer have the capital to restart their businesses after the Covid-19 scourge. Most of them have been affected by the lockdowns and it’s difficult for them to bounce back into business. Capital to restart their businesses is now a challenge,” she said.
However, Kwekwe Zanu PF proportional representative MP Perseverance Zhou said it was not all gloom for the SMEs.
“There is a motion which is being moved in Parliament to turn informal traders into formal traders so that they will enjoy benefits being enjoyed by bigger corporates,” she said.