Bulawayo's John Love Motors has become the latest company to shut down, with observers saying the demise of one of the most popular firms will further diminish the city's image.
John Love has been in operation for four decades and was one of the major firms associated with Bulawayo's image as the country's industrial hub. Until 2008, when it first experienced acute financial problems, John Love was the only Isuzu dealer in the Southern region servicing the Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
According to state media reports, the closure of the firm was announced to workers by the owner Ashton Ndlovu. Workers, who were seen filling in pension forms, said ahead of the closure Ndlovu was already relocating company assets to Harare where he is based.
Hundreds of companies have closed in Bulawayo over the years while many have been downsizing, leaving thousands of people unemployed, something which community leaders say has significantly contributed to the crime rise. The collapse of Bulawayo's industrial base has been so dramatic and evident that even President Mugabe once equated the country's second largest city to 'a big scrap yard.'
Company closures can be attributed to shortages of water, erratic power supplies antiquated machinery and of course the almost complete economic collapse. But most residents don't accept these justifications, particularly as most of the firms relocate to Harare.
Many people in Matabeleland believe the ZANU PF government has a deliberate policy to destroy their region culturally, politically and at an industrial level and say this plan was crafted shortly before independence.
Ibhetshu Lika Zulu spokesperson Edwin Ndlovu gave a typical view saying their pleas for policies that would reverse the trend have fallen on deaf ears, leaving them with no option but to believe the sabotage theory.
He said: 'It seems this is a calculated move to frustrate the people of Bulawayo and Matabeleland and is in keeping with the 1979 Grand Plan.' He added: 'They are saying there is no water in Bulawayo which is not true so definitely it shows that some people are sabotaging our region.'
Ndlovu, who is a senior member of the MDC-T, warned that the government was sitting on a time bomb because 90 percent of youths are not working. He said while many were scared of taking any action because of the memories of the 1980s genocide which left an estimated 20,000 people dead it won't be long before an uprising erupts.
In November last year former Minister of State Enterprises and Parastatals, Gorden Moyo, told SW Radio Africa ZANU PF had a program to de-industrialise Bulawayo ahead of a 'full takeover by state agents under the pretext of resuscitation.' He said the people were being punished for persistently voting against Mugabe's party.