Zimbabwe: Bulawayo Embraces Partial Shutdown

27 March 2020

Bulawayo companies have embraced the initiative to partially shut-down operations as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) in the country.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) national vice president, Joseph Gunda, confirmed yesterday that some city companies have opted to temporarily suspend operations.

"We are observing and seeing what's happening because this is a pandemic that no-one can predict. It's a very difficult situation we are in. As we are speaking some companies also have taken the approach to lock-down and its dependent on each individual companies to set themselves regarding the directive given by His Excellence our President (Mnangagwa) and also the guidelines from WHO (World Health Organisation) in terms of gatherings," he said.

Given that South Africa is Zimbabwe's biggest trading partner where the local industry secures most of its raw materials, Mr Gunda said the lockdown in the neighbouring country will force many local firms to also lockdown.

"If South Africa is closed, it means we are on 'forced lockdown' if we may put it that way. Even if we wanted to continue running but we can't get raw materials through the major port of entry, South Africa, then we have a challenge," he said.

"Some local business have taken the approach to actually lockdown to avoid the spreading of Covid-19, which from a health point of view is a noble cause especially when you have a situation where your operations involve quite a number of people."

Yesterday, South Africa embarked on a 21-day lock-down to prevent the spread of the disease as the neighbouring country has recorded over 400 confirmed cases.

In Harare, some companies such as TN Gold Arcturus Mine, Turnall, Dairiboard Zimbabwe as well as the Rent Board have responded to reducing the spread of Covid-19 by either locking down or embracing hygienic standards as enunciated by WHO to stop the spreading of the disease. The country's national export and promotion agency, ZimTrade also said it was taking necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mr Gunda said there were other situations where machinery in the factory can be operated by one or two people and they can observe a social distance of one metre, such a factory can be allowed to remain operational.

"But I am sure we are all acting responsibly as industry because we know the impact this (pandemic) has had the world over. People are dying massively for instance, in Italy and we would not want a similar situation here (Zimbabwe)," he said.

Mr Gunda said from a broader perspective industry is engaging at various level with Government so that there is a holistic approach and advising the country to tackle the pandemic as a nation.

"If you observed what has happened right through the world, we are safer if we take precautions to lock-down earlier rather than wait. India right now with 464 confirmed cases of Covid-19, they have already announced a lockdown. Others waited for longer like Italy they waited until the cases were about 6 000, France 28 000 but look then happened, I think they waited far too longer to respond to Covid-19 and by that time the virus had already spread."

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