One of the shops in Bulawayo that was looted and burnt by protestors in January

THE Government says the emergency relief loan fund to assist Bulawayo businesses that were looted and destroyed during the January violent protests, is now available and ready for disbursement.

This was revealed yesterday by the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, Cde Judith Ncube, during a Zanu-PF inter-district meeting in Njube suburb.

Minister Ncube said the process of disbursing the funds in Bulawayo would begin this week.

“The Government will this week start disbursing money under the emergency relief loan fund to assist businesses and shop owners whose outlets were destroyed and looted during the violent protests that occurred in January.

“We urge the affected proprietors to take advantage of this loan facility and revive their businesses and as I speak, the application forms are now available,” she said.

Bulawayo Provincial Minister of State Cde Judith Ncube addresses Zanu-PF supporters during the party’s meeting at Njube shopping centre yesterday

Minister Ncube said the Government had pledged to work hard to help the businesses realise a quick turnaround and promised to expedite the disbursement of the funds.

To show its commitment to supporting affected businesses, Government immediately set up a Cabinet ad hoc committee chaired by the Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu to assess the level of damage to business infrastructure and the quantum of losses incurred by businesspeople during the recent violent demonstrations perpetrated by the MDC Alliance and its affiliate non-governmental organisations.

The taskforce committee, which has eight ministries, was tasked to come up with measures that would bring relief to the affected communities and help businesses to recover.

On Friday, Industry and Commerce Permanent Secretary Dr Mavis Sibanda said a Cabinet committee responsible for the disbursement of the loans would complete its work at the end of this week.

She said this during the handover of Pepsi cooler boxes, refrigerators and trolleys to women entrepreneurs and businesses that were affected by the protests.

The First Lady, Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa, handed over the consignment in Bulawayo.

Dr Sibanda said Government was committed to assisting the affected businesses and efforts were being made to expedite disbursement of the loans.

“Government set up a Cabinet committee to look into assisting businesses that were affected by looting and violent demonstrations that took place in Bulawayo.

“We set up a relief loan fund and we’ve been assessing information that we received from the affected businesses and by next week (this week) the affected companies should be able to apply,” said Dr Sibanda.

She said the fund would be divided into three types of loans, which include restocking, purchase of equipment and purchase of building material to repair the destroyed buildings.

“Once we’re through, companies can submit their applications through our regional office, which will work with the Bulawayo provincial Minister Judith Ncube to approve the applications and send them to the head office in Harare.

“Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu chairs the Cabinet committee and I chair the technical committee, which reports to the ministers. Businesses should also attach police reports and operational papers with their applications. For those who need help, Minister Ncube’s office is free to assist,” said Dr Sibanda.

Hundreds of shops in Bulawayo were destroyed during the opposition party instigated violent protests.

Marauding youths and activists from the opposition party and civil society went on a rampage, looting shops, destroying infrastructure and attacking police and ordinary citizens during a three-day “stayaway” organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

More than 120 Bulawayo shop owners whose properties were destroyed during the violent protests last Friday received refrigerators from Varun Beverages.

As part of the company’s empowerment drive, 300 women entrepreneurs were also given cooler boxes to kick-start their businesses.

The First Lady handed over the equipment which also included trolleys at the Liquor Hub in Bulawayo.

Speaking at the ceremony, Amai Mnangagwa commended efforts by Varun Beverages and called on other businesses to emulate the good gesture.

“We’re here to recognise the selfless assistance rendered by Varun Beverages to alleviate a number of challenges that a number of businesses in Bulawayo have been experiencing following the vandalism of their equipment by violent demonstrators.

“I’m informed by the Emergency Relief Inter-Ministerial committee appointed by Cabinet that Bulawayo was the most affected by the violent demonstrations and lost in excess of $19,5 million,” said the First Lady.

She said she was saddened that some of the affected people were widows who had their source of livelihoods destroyed.

Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi also commended Varun Beverages for complementing the Government in assisting the affected businesses.

Bulawayo province suffered the most devastating damage and of the 181 shops and other business entities that were visited by the inter-ministerial committee, a total cost of $19,5 million was recorded.

The figure is inclusive of stock lost, equipment and property damaged.

Industrialists estimate that the economy could have lost business amounting to $300 million over the three-day forced shut-down.

Companies and individuals who lost their properties to the marauding demonstrators have been plunged into serious financial challenges since insurance firms do not compensate anything destroyed during riots.

Ordinary businesses became the biggest targets of attacks, resulting in the loss of goods, income, jobs and shops which were vandalised.Chronicle