By Wellington Zimbowa
SMALL and Medium Enterprise players have grudgingly acknowledged current tightening of the COVID- 19 regulations, through reverting to Level 4 lockdown that only allows Essential Services to continue with operations, albeit limited business operations, while barring other service providers deemed as non-essential, affecting the informal sector.
Government through the Acting President, Vice President Kembo Mohadi announced the tightening of COVID- 19 regulations following a marked spike in new infections and subsequent deaths, with critics accusing authorities of opening up the country’s borders, chiefly the South African and Zimbabwean Beitbridge Border, during the festive season.
According to Delight Makotose, director for the Professional SME’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PSCCI), opening up borders during the festive season was not a wise decision, adding that while tightening of lockdown regulations was necessary, but the government should fulfil its pledge to avail cushioning funds to the SMEs.
“The current intensification of the COVID- 19 lockdown regulations have put the last nail in the coffin for SMEs as they were yet to find their feet from the tight lockdown introduced since March last year, which barred them from opening their businesses.
“While the lockdown restrictions are necessary to safeguard public health, there are also welfare issues imminent as we need to ensure the sustainability of that life we are trying to serve.
“SMEs are the cog of the country’s socio-economic progress as we are mainly in an informal economy due to de-industrialisation and they largely live from hand to mouth and to these families are literally starving now just like many other families in towns and cities.
“Government has long promised some cushioning funds for SMEs since the onset of the COVID- 19 pandemic, but up to now, nothing has materialised,” said Makotose.
PSCCI is a voluntary membership grouping for small to medium enterprises in the country that seeks to enhance their professional status and market linkages through capacity building networking and market linkage initiatives.
It is credited for the annual International SME’s Expo event that is graced by international delegates and companies since 2010 with the last year’s 10th anniversary edition being forced to be held virtually due to the COVID -19 pandemic.
The Cosmetology Association of Zimbabwe (CAZ) –a voluntary professional membership for hairdressers, cosmetologists and skin beauticians and massage therapists as well as barbers – also noted the delicate human socio-economic situation spurred by the global pandemic in the country.
Its chairperson Jackline Granger said although the lockdown is necessary to safeguard public health, especially given that her sector is highly contact-based there was a need also to balance the welfare of cosmetologists.
She, however, said her sector; especially those formally registered had been abiding by the government set COVID- 19 lockdown regulations.
“Covid-19 presents a very tricky situation, and although the lockdown is necessary, it just has not to be too long, and government must prioritise robust testing of all citizens and improved management and care for those infected and those exposed but not infected.
“Our sector was largely hit because since March 2020 we have been shut only opening up in August 2020, but the business was just down since disposable income was meagre due to the huge effect of COVID- 19 on the already suffering economy.
“Despite that, most of our members and others also in the sector we had been paying rentals during the previous shut down and lockdown, and also had to part with their hard-earned money in monthly COVID- 19 tests for all staff.
“Although government promised to give us COVID- 19 cushioning funds nothing has materialised to date, despite having submitted all the required information to authorities,” she said.
By Wellington Zimbowa