BULAWAYO – Government must pay for the looting that occurred in Bulawayo last month, the secretary-general of the main MDC party Douglas Mwonzora has said.
Mwonzora was reacting to sentiments by Zanu PF politburo member and former youth league boss Absolom Sikhosana who boldly declared recently that the organisers of the protests should pay for the damages caused.
Sikhosana was part of a delegation that toured companies in Bulawayo recently to ascertain the quantum of the damage resulting from the riots which rocked the country last month after President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government increased the price of fuel by 150 percent.
He said it was unfair for taxpayers’ money to be used in resuscitating the affected businesses.
“The organisers of the protests should pay for the damages; why should government use taxpayers’ money that could have otherwise been used for other developmental purposes? It is common knowledge that the protests were organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the civil society, and this opposition party that we have,” he said.
In response, Mwonzora told the Daily News that the MDC did not organise the protests adding that Mnangagwa and his government were partly responsible for the looting.
“The MDC did not organise the stay-away at all; it was organised by other people and members of the public, including members of the MDC heeded the call. Even Zanu PF members were part of the protesters,” he said.
“Blaming the MDC is mere cheap propaganda. People were outraged by government’s inept handling of the doctors’ strike; they were outraged by the president’s announcement of fuel price hikes. The fault lies with the government,” added the MDC secretary-general.
Mwonzora said government should also pay for the losses incurred by business after the Internet was shut down during the protests.
“Government should also pay for the business lost as a result of disconnection of the Internet because that act was unlawful; it was found by the court as unlawful. People lost business because of government’s actions. They are not a serious government. They are horribly inward looking and they always seek to blame someone even for their own ineptitude,” he said.
Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema who was part of the inter-ministerial team that visited Bulawayo last week said arresting the looters had been a herculean challenge for the police.
The Finance ministry has already indicated that it will avail a $20 million special fund to assist the businesses that were destroyed during the protests.
A report by the provincial committee on damaged property and stock lost submitted that 181 affected shops were visited last month.
According to the report, most of the shops were not insured and they lost company documents during the lootings.
Total preliminary property loss was $19,5 million, with Entumbane worst hit at $4 million loss, Lobengula next with $3,5 million loss, with over 150 shops affected.
Vendors were also adversely affected the stay-away.
In his presentation before the committee, town clerk Christopher Dube said the city’s infrastructure was damaged while service delivery was adversely disrupted during the three-day protests.
Industrialist Busisa Moyo said most companies in Bulawayo’s industrial sites were not directly affected by the riots but they received threats as to why they remained open during the protests.
The National Bakers Association of Zimbabwe said 120 000 loaves of bread, the daily supply in the city, were wasted on the first day of the protests.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently said government will deliver a “very concrete and direct” response to businesses affected by the violence, adding the bills for the damages must be covered by the State, with insurers also chipping in.
“It’s something that is as least within our means; we are very determined as government,” Ncube said, after listening to presentations by various affected sectors.