Looting, vandalism cost Bulawayo businesses $20 million, report

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

PROPERTY and goods amounting to $19, 5 million were destroyed and looted in Bulawayo during last month’s violent anti-government protests which rocked Harare, Bulawayo and some parts of the country.

This is contained in a report by the Bulawayo provincial committee on Damaged Property and Stock lost by businesses during the country’s worst demonstrations since the 1998 food riots.

Committee coordinator Mary Chimwaza said her team has pegged the damages at $19, 5 million.

She was speaking during an appraisal meeting to the Adhoc Inter-Ministerial Committee on Emergency Relief to Businesses affected by the deadly demonstrations.

The provincial committee was tasked to assess the impact of the protests to businesses in the country’s second largest city.

“The established value of the destroyed property at the time we carried the assessment was $19, 5 million,” Chimwanza told the ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube.

“We received other submissions which will also feed into our final report.”

Chimwanza said the committee, which was established on 28 January, visited a total 181 affected shops in the city.

“In Entumbane, property and goods worth $4 million was destroyed and looted in 45 shops. In Cowdray Park, property worth $2 million in 23 shops was also destroyed and looted,” she said, adding that a lot of business owners also lost documents during the disturbances.

“Areas of concern raised by most businesses people is that they lost company documents, especially tax documents.

“As a committee, we also noted that most of the businesses were not insured. Some also lost ingredients that were imported.”

Speaking during the same meeting, Ncube assured the affected business owners that the government will avail the required amount as a rescue package.

“After the disturbances, we set up a ministerial committee which was driven by what lawyers call ‘the duty of rescue’.

“We have noted a figure of $19, 5 million. It’s not about budget at the end of the day. We think it is something within our means,” said Ncube.

The minister said the rescue facility will also include vendors whose businesses were affected.

“We intend to focus on areas of business infrastructure as well as some elements of restocking.

“You can imagine what our challenges are going to be. We are going to cater for both registered and informal businesses.

“Somehow, the informal businesses are more important that the registered. After all, it’s a duty of rescue. Vendors also need to be included somehow,” said Ncube.

The meeting was also attended by Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathema, Minister of State Affairs for Bulawayo Metropolitan province Judith Ncube, representatives of industry and commerce.

The inter-ministerial committee also toured some of the affected businesses in the high density suburbs.