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Protests leave businesses wallowing

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

NOT even his military training and war experience could help David Moyo protect his shop from “looters” during recent skirmishes.

Moyo, a 58 year-old ex-combatant, tried without success to defend his shop.

At the end, he could only salvage pieces of paper and other scrap metals of broken-down doors, computers and others, after looters overwhelmed him.

“Those people came as a mob and started attacking the shop at Nketa 6 in the front using bricks, stones and others objects. They tried to force it open, but failed due to burglars’ bars. When they were doing that, we were busy trying to evacuate goods through the back door,” Moyo said.

“After realising that we were evacuating goods through the back door, they came to us and started attacking the truck carrying the goods, but we managed to escape. After we had gone, they forced open the storeroom where the safe for money was being kept and stole about $13 000.”

“As of today, I do not even know how they opened it.  We found everything scattered around. They destroyed infrastructure, including brand new scanners we had bought from South Africa,” he said.

Last month, Zimbabwe witnessed widespread protests against a steep hike in the price of fuel and general economic decay which turned violent when security forces used excessive force in a bid to quell the protests

The protesters destroyed infrastructure and looted shops belonging to fellow citizens.

Moyo, a father of four who started his businesses using part of the Z$50 000 war veterans gratuity in 1997, says he lost about $68 000 to looters.

He operates two retail shops in high-density suburbs of Bulawayo, one in Nketa 6 and the other in Lobengula Extension under the trading name — Injabulo Supermarket.

Both stores were attacked and looted.

“At Nketa 6 shop we lost about $32 000 and then at Lobengula Extension we lost about $36 000. At Lobengula Extension we didn’t recover anything. We found the doors wide opened and all the goods, including computers and scanners, looted. It’s very difficult, indeed,” he said.

Addressing journalists after touring milling companies in Bulawayo recently, Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson, Tafadzwa Musarara, said many shops were destroyed and would not be able to restock.

“This is Bulawayo. So we are looking at a loss of $3 million. We are still to recover from that shock and we can’t comprehend it. We have a loss that we have incurred which is not insurable. We have customers that we have grown to know for years here in Bulawayo who would meet their payment obligations. Now they can’t. They are technically bankrupt,” he said.

Choppies Stores chief executive officer Ramachandran Ottapathu revealed in a statement that they lost stock valued at $2,5 million, while equipment and assets worth $6,5 million were destroyed after nine of its branches were attacked by demonstrators and looters.

Four of the nine shops were burnt down by the looters.

“During the stayaway disturbances, nine of our shops in Zimbabwe’s high-density suburbs were looted, with stock valued at approximately $2,5 million being forcibly taken away by the demonstrators. The total value of the equipment and assets that were destroyed by the fire have been put at close to about $6,5 million,” Ottapathu said.

Association for Business in Zimbabwe chief executive Victor Nyoni said supermarkets would not be in a position to restock.

“Also, some of those businesses that have been affected do not have insurance cover because of the economic environment in Zimbabwe. As a result, there is no way that they are going to restock and those people that are employed in those shops are now out of employment,” he said.

Nyoni said the country was likely to experience more economic woes due to the destruction of property and looting.

“In fact, targeting private businesses — the people who keep this economy ticking — is a huge mistake. We implore government to find a way now to help those businesses to take off again, but the situation is dire.”

He said some businesses could be left in debt as they had purchased the goods they were trading on credit.

“Infrastructure has been destroyed. What that then means is that you also need money to rebuild the shop, but already businesses were operating below capacity and to imagine that there can even be funding to do such things is unthinkable,” he said.

Moyo felt let down by the community who failed to protect businesses that benefit them.

“I feel we were let down by the community for failing to protect our businesses. Now jobs have been lost and they are forced to go to town to buy small things like bread. Communities should not allow intruders to destroy their businesses,” he said.

As a way forward, Moyo felt that government could do something by way of compensation.

“I feel government should compensate us because it is its duty to protect our businesses. I don’t even know where to start. I’m incapacitated,” he said.

Source : Newsday

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