25 April 2012

Zimbabwe: Prime Minister Pledges to Assist Businesses in Distressed Areas

The Prime Minister has pledged increased support for struggling businesses in areas that are distressed, particularly those in Matabeleland province where relocations and closures have intensified.

Speaking at the opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he had toured many "ghost towns" and seen old equipment, retrenched workers and towns with closed companies that need to be resuscitated.

The Prime Minister's comments come a day after civic society and labour groups from Matabeleland province met in Bulawayo to discuss the critical lack of development funds and how the government's Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund (DiMAF) was ignoring Bulawayo.

Talking about Bulawayo Tsvangirai said: "In this town alone, 80 companies were closed, leaving 20,000 workers jobless. I am aware of the concerns from various stakeholders regarding the disbursement of this money and I pledge to ensure that this money is immediately disbursed for its intended purpose."

The groups, including Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, National Constitutional Assembly and Zimbabwe Election Support Network, resolved to pressure government to channel to Bulawayo most of the $40 million that had been set aside for distressed areas, because the majority of the money disbursed so far had ignored the region.

Tsvangirai said he would make sure there was more emphasis on assisting companies in Bulawayo and other underdeveloped areas. The groups that met on Tuesday said they would be demanding that a representative from the ZCTU be appointed to the DiMAF committee. They also plan to organise demonstrations, if Harare continues to be the main focus of government's development plans.

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