Government has come up with a $30 million fund for businesses that were damaged and looted during opposition-sponsored violent demonstrations last month to help them reconstruct and restock, it has been learnt.

The phased programme will begin by restocking looted shops this week.

The validation process – which involves assessing the damage done to properties, identifying what can be salvaged and quantifying amounts needed to revive the businesses – is already underway in Bulawayo.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, who leads the inter-ministerial committee set up by Government to assess the extent of damage, emphasised that the funds were not “freebies”, but loans that had to be paid within a reasonable period of time.

“We have set aside $30 million which will go towards reconstruction and the loans that will be given to the businesses,” said Minister Ndlovu.

“These are loans, and not freebies. These are public funds, so we are going to have a dialogue between Government and businesses as soon as the validation process is done.

“A validation process is going to be done in the next two days. We have roped in local Government officials, students from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Bulawayo Polytechnic. We feel the students can gain some valid educational experience from the process.

“The dialogue will lay out the agreements of the loan and how it will be paid. We are beginning to realise that most the damage was done in Bulawayo than other cities and towns.

“I will be meeting the technical team soon. However, as for restocking, we starting as early as Tuesday,” he said.

Bulawayo is set to receive $19,5 million for re-stocking, refurbishment of equipment and the rehabilitation of physical infrastructure.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu said companies have been liaising with Government to help them resume operations.

 “We have been working together with the ministerial taskforce on the losses incurred during the protests.

“Due to the losses incurred, some retailers are now struggling to resume operations smoothly as they cannot restock.

“We believe that these acts of shop vandalism and banditry cannot be excused or accepted as legitimate and cannot be a method of expressing grievances.

“We call upon Government to urgently set up this fund to help retailers replenish their stock and ensure that consumers have access to basic necessities, as well as other essential goods and services,” he said.

Several properties around the country were destroyed during last month’s disturbances.

Industry believes it lost more than $500 million in damages and unrealised revenues during the disturbances.

In Chitungwiza, violent protestors destroyed medicines, laboratory test kits and a refrigerated seven-tonne truck — all valued at about US$143 000 — and set six cars on fire.

They also destroyed the city’s only traffic light.

The inter-ministerial committee that was set up by Government is made up of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa; Minister Ndlovu; Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza; Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry; and Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana.chronicle