Tough times for Byo residents

BULAWAYO - Ever since the country was plunged into chaos following the announcement of austerity measures by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, most residents of the second city are toiling on a daily basis to eke out a living.

The city has witnessed a spate of unprecedented price increases for most goods and services after foreign currency rates soared on the parallel market, reacting to an unpopular two percent tax levied by Treasury on all electronic transactions.

While a two-litre bottle of cooking oil retails at $3, 80, the product has not been readily available on the official market, forcing consumers to access it on the black market where it fetches upwards of $15.

Other basic products have equally vanished from supermarkets’ shelves and are now found on the black market where they cost an arm and a leg.

Another sad scenario has been playing out in the fuel industry where motorists are sleeping in queues in order to access diesel or petrol.

Long queues characterise almost every service station in the city. The fuel shortages have precipitated a thriving black market where five litres of petrol is going for between $15 and $25.

Bulawayo, which used to be an industrial hub, is also suffering serious de-industrialisation.

As the foreign currency situation continues to bite, companies such as General Beltings, Shepco and Zimplow, among others, have resorted to reduced working hours due to a shortage of raw materials.

“We are in a tight spot as foreign currency shortages hit industries harder. Generally, for most of us it has been almost three weeks with no (foreign currency) allocations and most of the industries rely on the importation of raw materials and without allocations the situation is getting worse,” Confederation of Zimbabwe
Industries Matabeleland Chamber president Joseph Gunda said.

“We are appealing to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to prioritise allocating the mining equipment manufactures and supplies.”

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the worst hit. Pharmacies here are only accepting payment in United States dollars, putting the lives of many patients in danger.

A top official from the ruling party Zanu PF, Tshinga Dube, came face-to-face with reality in the pharmacies last week when his bid to buy medication using bond notes hit a snag.

A survey by this publication this week revealed that most companies that are into construction have either scaled down operations or completely closed owing to the on-going shortage of cement.

The impact is quite clear even at an individual level where construction projects in suburbs in and around the second city have stalled.

This reporter came face-to-face with this sad reality during a visit to high density suburbs such as Cowdray Park.

“The owner of this property told us that we can’t continue building the house because everything, especially cement, has gone out of reach,” said Dickson Manunure, a builder.

“He told us that we have to wait till the situation normalises. But this has caused more suffering to people like us who don’t stay here. We came all the way from Mutare to build this house,” he added.

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