Business leaders slam post-poll anarchy

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Passersby are seen walking past an Inscor premises that was extensively damaged during MDC Alliance demonstration that turned violent on Wednesday.

Africa Moyo
Industrialists say high hopes of the economy booming after polls riding on the momentum generated in the last eight months, should not be allowed to slip over political disputes and parties aggrieved by this week’s harmonised elections outcome should pursue legal routes instead of resorting to violence.

The business leaders said industry and commerce suffer irreparable damage in the face of such violence, hence the need to pursue civilized routes to express disgruntlements whenever they arise.

The MDC- Alliance supporters, whose emotions had been whipped up by their leaders who claimed the elections had been rigged, brought businesses to a halt as they went berserk in central Harare.

The marauding demonstrators torched vehicles, destroyed shops, looted vendors’ wares and abused other citizens that were not keen to participate in their violent demonstration.
The violent protests left businesses counting losses and other social and business events planned for the weekend have either been shelved or hang by the thread.

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has cancelled this weekend’s matches while the status of international and Congolese musician Koffi Olomide show scheduled for today at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC), could not be ascertained by the time of going to print.

This means that entrepreneurs that sell wares at soccer and musical gatherings have been deprived of huge income.

At the same time, some traders operating from brick and mortar shops didn’t open yesterday fearing a repeat of attacks they had been subjected to on Wednesday, while other closed by midday.

Newspaper vendors said they had been forced off their selling points by ‘hooligans’ who threatened to burn newspapers or beat them up and the situation was not better yesterday for the communication sector as vendors returned the papers by midday.

Representatives from the country’s business bodies; the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR), slammed politicians for spoiling an otherwise peaceful election.

Industrialists say this year’s election had been a major departure from yesteryear polls that were characterised by violence and intimidation.

Hopes were high that the economy would boom after the polls, riding on the momentum generated in the last eight months.

In the six months to June this year, the country recorded $16 billion worth of investment approvals as the investors gave a thumbs-up to economic reforms introduced by President Mnangagwa’s administration.

Industry perspective on violence
CZI president Sifelani Jabangwe told Business Weekly yesterday that political parties should resort to legal means to resolve disputes, instead of vandalising property.
“We believe that perhaps the violence was due to overexcitement but I think people should take note of the due process that comes with elections,” said Jabangwe.

“Political party leaders should ensure that their followers are kept informed of the correct things. When things like this happen, they disrupt business at a time when we want to separate politics from business.

“We had hoped that as a country, we had moved from the violence that characterised the campaign period in the past. Every five years, business had suffered due to pre-election political violence.”

Jabangwe said those unhappy with the outcome of the election should use provisions of the Electoral Act to challenge the outcome.

ZNCC chief executive officer Takunda Mugaga, said it was astonishing that the country would be plunged into the dastard and cowardly acts of Wednesday after voting.
“This election has to be celebrated because it was peaceful. In the past violence would be witnessed in the run-up to elections.

“Events of yesterday (Wednesday) are very regrettable particularly when all international media channels are in Zimbabwe and the message they are now fronting is that of human rights abuses, which is not right,” said Mugaga.

CZR president Denford Mutashu, also said political parties must be tolerant if the country was to remain peaceful.

“The lack of tolerance has led to these barbaric acts. People must accept the results and stop trying to subvert the will of the people,” said Mutashu.

“Violence reverses the gains we have recorded in the last eight months of trying to promote peace in the country and opening up our country to investment and promoting democracy.

“I don’t understand why opposition politicians held that press conference to incite violence.”

However, industry and business have called for restraint in dealing with demonstrators, and not be “heavy-handed”.

Quantum of damage to property
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), industrialists and retailers, still do not have figures to show the extent of damage caused by the demonstrators.

Mutashu said as of yesterday, they were on the ground assessing the damage done to property and the quantum of goods looted.

Some shop owners were not keen to provide information fearing that the vandals would pounce on them at some point in future.

However, retailers had lost business on Wednesday and yesterday since they closed shops by midday when the violent protestors got into businesses looting food and other valuables.

Jabangwe said the retail business booms in the morning and late afternoon to evening and that trade period was blown away.

The decline in demand for goods also means producers have too much stock and will eventually cut production.

This might result in job losses in the long run, hence the need for a quick return to stability.

Said Jabangwe: “The fact that demonstrators caused the closure of shops means retailers didn’t get the sales they normally record in the evening. There was also a disruption of vendors as their wares were looted. So it became a loss for everyone and setback for business when we want to grow the economy.”

Keen to grow economy
ZNCC believes returning to normalcy was key to rebuilding the economy.
“Now that elections are over, we want to start rebuilding the economy. We have already lost a lot of time as a country in the past, bickering and we want to redevelop our economy. We are looking beyond the election and channel our efforts towards nation building,” said Mugaga.
CZI’s Jabangwe said industrialists are keen to work to grow the economy.
Jabangwe said all political parties had election manifestos that indicated their willingness to transform the economy.
“Our message is that the economy should grow. Political parties had election manifestos that spoke about growing business in the country.
“We want to ensure that the economy grows from now on,” said Jabangwe.
Retailers also said they remain “hopeful” about the future. Mutashu said “we are all geared” to grow the economy and the violence should stop.

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