Shutdown: Business leaders bemoan loss of production, hardline govt stance

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By Alois Vinga

ZIMBABWE’S business community has called on government to urgently address ordinary people’s concerns in order to avoid continuous loss of production time through protest shutdowns.

The MDC had called for a massive protest in central Harare Friday to express growing impatience with government’s failure to remedy a deepening economic crisis that has pushed many to the edge.

Government insists the pain caused by its tough policy measures was necessary for an economy which is reeling from decades of mismanagement under former President Robert Mugabe.

Police moved Thursday to impose an unpopular ban on the demonstration, setting the stage for ugly clashes with MDC followers on Friday.

Reacting to skirmishes that followed the foiled protest, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce past president, Devine Ndhlukula said it was time government took citizens’ concerns seriously.

“The more time people spend on the streets, the lesser we produce for the economy. Government must urgently engage in an all-inclusive dialogue which considers every citizen’s concerns,” she said.

Economist Persistence Gwanyanya blamed government for not doing enough to ensure hard-pressed locals were not entirely burdened through tough austerity introduced by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube last year.

“Whilst people have a democratic right to demonstrate, it’s the duty of Government to convince the nation about the progress regarding economic reforms.

“If the people feel that government is not convincing, they will demonstrate, as they are currently doing, which is costly to the economy,” he said.

He said policy makers should expedite the reform process and get the economy back on track in the shortest time possible.

“Reforms, especially those anchored by austerity, are painful and they always tend to be resisted,” Gwanyanya said.

“It’s always important for government to minimise the pain of this transition by ensuring that the ordinary people do not carry the disproportionate burden of reforms.”

Gwanyanya said Zimbabweans have suffered enough and it was understandable that they could not continue enduring the stress.

Top industrialist Sifelani Jabangwe also bemoaned continuous loss of production time and called for genuine solutions.

“There is urgent need for resolutions to grievances being raised by citizens because failure to do so will diminish the few gains achieved so far,” he said.

This comes after most locals failed to go to Harare’s CBD on Friday fearing being caught up in the wild skirmishes.

A number of shop owners chose to stay away for fear of the unknown.