BUSINESSES destroyed during protests in January 2019 qualify for affordable Government loans and now a team from the security forces is on the ground reconstructing destroyed and damaged buildings.
A team of Zimbabwe’s security forces comprising members of the Zimbabwe National Army, police and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services started refurbishing the buildings three weeks ago.
The exercise targets all businesses affected by the violent protests.
In Bulawayo, the project started at Nyandeni Shopping Centre in New Magwegwe and will move to Mountain View shops in Lobengula West followed by Pumula East shops and then to the rest to restore buildings to their condition before January 14, 2019.
The destructive protests that took place in all major towns and cities, targeted several supermarkets, service stations, butcheries, pharmacies, bottle stores and bars that were looted and destroyed.
Bulawayo suffered the most damages, with businesses losing goods and property worth millions of dollars after a looting spree and in some cases businesses torched after looting and some motorists had their vehicles set on fire.
Hooligans, mostly marauding youths, barricaded streets using drums, trolleys, burning tyres and stones during a three-day nationwide stay away called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other civil society organisations aligned to the opposition MDC-Alliance, but the stay-away was seen as an excuse to burn and loot.
In an interview yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Raj Modi said Government was just fulfilling what it had promised, but could not immediately provide the amounts of money involved.
“As was promised by the Government, people were given money to restore their businesses. Those who approached the responsible offices were assisted and for those who have not yet been assisted, they will definitely be assisted. This is a process. On the refurbishment part, it’s a part of the process where we as Government are helping our people whose shops where vandalised during the January 14, 2019 demonstrations,” he said.
Deputy Minister Modi could not say how much the businesses were being given as that depends on the scale of damage suffered during the looting.
He said the loans are to be repaid at an affordable rate.
“How much one gets depends on how much they lost during the destruction, and the loans are affordable to all depending on the size of the business damaged.
“The programme is open for all and no one is forced to bounce back to business through the Government’s initiative, some of the people used their own money and right now they are established and for some they approached me and I am definitely going to help them,” said the deputy minister.
Works at a damaged supermarket belonging to Mrs Nomsa Sobantu’s family are nearing completion in New Magwegwe.
Our Bulawayo Bureau visited the site and saw builders under the supervision of Warrant Officer Class Two Tawanda Happymore Chadho from 1 Engineers squadron busy carrying out final touches on the building.
Mrs Sobantu said she was relieved that Government had chipped in to rehabilitate her family’s Hozani Supermarket which was burnt down during the 2019 January violent protests.
Mrs Sobantu said Government did not provide her with hard cash to initiate the rehabilitation works, but brought materials and artisans who are reconstructing the building.
“I’m so, so grateful for what the Government has done because every time I visited that shop after it was burnt down, I would break down.
“I had no means of fixing the shop and we didn’t know where we would have got the money to reconstruct it,” she said.
“These days I’m overjoyed just seeing the work that has been done. We are not paying the soldiers anything and they have promised to complete the building by the end of February.
“We hope when it’s finished, we will manage to get a client who will rent the shop so that we also manage to pay back the Government loan which has a 10-year tenure.”
Mrs Sobantu said the destruction of the shop brought financial challenges to her family as they were no longer getting monthly rentals.
Locals who spoke to the news crew bemoaned the destruction of the shops saying unscrupulous tuckshop owners are now charging them exorbitant prices for goods they used to get from Hozani Supermarket at affordable prices.