By Bulawayo Correspondent
THE police crackdown on bottle stores and bars in Bulawayo on New Year’s Eve has left business operators and informal traders in the city counting their losses.
Police imposed a national ban on all traditional New Year’s Eve parties, all-night church prayers, musical galas and, the use of firecrackers citing the rise in Covid-19 infections.
However, the order left some business operators facing mounting debts as they had stocked large quantities of various commodities in anticipation of brisk business normally associated with New Year’s Eve celebrations.
As early as 6 pm last Friday, police in Bulawayo had descended on some bars and bottle stores ordering them to close.
“I had stocked various brands of beers, and braai packs in anticipation of a brisk business, which is normally associated with the New Year’s Eve, but unfortunately the police disrupted our businesses,” Brian Siziba, a bar manager with a local nightclub, said.
“I understand there is Covid-19, but why close businesses at 6 pm when the curfew starts at 9 pm. Most of us were expecting to maximize our returns from the festive season celebrations after spending almost the whole of last year not doing any meaningful business.”
He added they had ordered meat and beer on credit hoping to repay suppliers after the holiday.
Shebeen operators in the low-density suburbs, who also normally make a killing during the same period, were also seriously affected by the police’s ban.
“Every New Year’s Eve, I make a lot of profit through selling alcohol, but this time around all my plans were put into disarray by the police who were constantly monitoring activities at my house,” one operator, who only identified herself as Melody, said.
“I have an arrangement with a local wholesaler where I buy beer in large quantities and pay later. However, this time it will be very difficult for me to repay because I made very little sales during New Year’s eve.”
Japhet Moyo, an informal trader, said his business was also affected by the police’s restrictions.
“I sell firecrackers which are very popular on New Year’s Eve. I ordered a lot of them from South Africa expecting large business, but people were not interested in buying after the police announced the ban on firecrackers during New Year.”
Moyo accused the government of majoring in trivial issues while failing to create a conducive environment for the informal traders’ operations.
“What has the potential of spreading Covid-19 between the recently held Zanu PF provincial elections and a mere firecracker? From the economic point of view, whoever came up with that decision is an economic saboteur.”