Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa pleads with business

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HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week extended the begging bowl to the private sector to fund the importation of coronavirus vaccines amid a rise in new infections of the virus with deaths breaching the 1,000 mark.

The virtual meeting comes after Mnangagwa said in his address on Saturday that the government would combine forces with the private sector for a national response.

Business Times can report that Mnangagwa met business leaders from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce in a virtual meeting this week.

Companies such as Seed Co and many others were also part of the meeting.

Well-placed sources told this publication that Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, was also part of the meeting.

“On Tuesday, the President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) told business leaders in a virtual meeting that he wants to work with the private sector.

He was fund raising for the importation of coronavirus vaccine,” one source told Business Times.

This was confirmed by other business leaders who were part of the meeting.

The private sector and the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe have been pushing for the use of Ivermectin drug on Covid-19 patients.

The Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians has been against the use of Ivermectin saying it is unproven.

Government on Tuesday gave the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe the go ahead to allow for the importation of Ivermectin.

The private sector sees Ivermectin as a first line treatment option which will reduce the number of people who may get serious and require hospitalisation.

Government is expecting to take delivery of the vaccines procured under a global initiative known as Covax, which is led by the World Health Organisation. The vaccines will be distributed to African countries, once approved and licenced.

However, the government is seeking funds from business at a time when local companies are feeling the full effects of the new coronavirus pandemic variant-which appears to have entered its deadliest phase yet- with many becoming more anxious about their future.

The resurgence of the virus is likely to lead to another pause in economic activity over the near future.

Government had projected a 7.4% gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year underpinned by stabilisation gains of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and programs under the National Development Strategy, which kicked off this month as well as improved climate and investment conditions.

However, this is highly unlikely due to vulnerabilities to be suffered owing to the deadly virus.

Zimbabwe is likely to slip into a much deeper contraction this year.

The new variant has proved to be more transmissible and at the same time it’s associated with a higher degree of mortality.

Zimbabwe has recorded more than 31 000 cases, 21 000 recoveries and over to 1 000 deaths.

Mnangagwa on Saturday warned of a spike in new cases in the “coming hours, days, weeks and even months” imploring Zimbabweans to adhere to the lockdown measures introduced early this month to stem the rise in Covid-19 cases.

The pandemic has severely hammered the economy with many businesses operating in survival mode due to the impact of the lockdown put in place to combat the spread of the virus.

Companies are grappling with massive collapse in demand.

The lockdown has also hindered the ability of customers to pay on time. Perhaps, this will go on until the end of this year, meaning recovery from the impact of the virus could be a long slog.

The liquidity pressures will also likely force companies to accept unfavourable business terms.

This could be a threat to many companies’ survival.Local companies said the pandemic will have a severe impact on their businesses.

Several companies have paused re-opening after the festive holiday.

“Executives everywhere are thinking about the critical next months of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest coronavirus outbreak is a twin threat to lives and livelihoods and how organisations need to prepare for the next normal,” CEO Africa Round Table executive director, Kipson Gundani said.

He added: “At the top list of concerns by CEOs is perhaps, management issues that matter most, from leading through the Covid-19 crisis to managing risk and digitising operations.”

Zimbabwe’s biggest business lobby group, CZI, has projected a tough year for business.”A sector-by-sector Covid-19 risk assessment is necessary to come up with custom fit measures for COVID prevention, containment and business continuity,” CZI said.

The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) has since written to the government to consider extending business hours.

The current measures allow businesses in essential services to operate between 8am to 3pm.

“We humbly request for a review of business operating hours (from 7am and closing 4pm for manufacturing, 8am to 5pm for supermarkets and other retail outlets) to reduce overcrowding, and curfew hours to run from 7pm to 5am to allow movement of those in essential services to travel from home to work and back ahead of curfew hours,” EMCOZ said.

Job losses are mounting again.

Prices of raw materials are rising too. And there are severe supply chain disruptions too.

The road to recovery is projected to be long, winding, and uncertain following a renewed surge in new Covid-19 infections, analysts said.

Although President Mnangagwa admitted the situation was now dire, he is hopeful Zimbabwe would secure a vaccine.

“The situation is very worrisome and threatens to become dire,” Mnangagwa said.

He said negotiations with countries that have developed immunisation are at an advanced stage.

But, economist Brains Muchemwa, however, painted a grim picture.

“How long shall the lockdown be while waiting for a vaccine that may take five to 10 months to be available?

Can we afford at least a three-month lockdown for the majority of the population who are in the informal sector?”

Source – Business Times