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Churches overrun Bulawayo CBD

by Staff reporter
18 Nov 2023 at 09:34hrs | Views
STAKEHOLDERS in Bulawayo are concerned that a growing number of churches are taking over premises in the central business district (CBD) and industrial sites.

Fears abound that this is seriously affecting the city's economic wellbeing in terms of job creation and investment opportunities.

The sound of machinery, which once characterised Bulawayo industrial areas, creating what was back then touted as Zimbabwe's industrial hub, have been replaced with songs of praise and worship almost on a daily basis as the people of God overrun the city.

Pentecostal churches now dominate the city's CBD and industrial premises.

Mayor David Coltart blamed government's economic policies for collapsing big businesses in Bulawayo through centralisation of administration in Harare.

"If CBD and industrial areas have commercial properties taken over by churches, the city is no longer creating employment and generating wealth that a business and industry should generate ... (these are) consequences of disastrous economic policies of Zanu-PF in over the 43 years and its corruption," Coltart said.

"This had the effect of collapsing many industries that have not been able to curve through hyperinflation and centralisation of administration in Harare; and deep-rooted corruption primarily located in Harare has resulted in the collapse of big businesses in Bulawayo."

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association secretary for administration Thembelani Dube said the use of productive properties as places of worship is an indication of a decaying economy.

"The conversion of premises meant for business to churches is a clear indicator of the economic decay we are experiencing in the region and nation at large," he said.

"The business cannot be sustainable in an environment where there is suppressed production and unemployed consumers, only retailing visible, making the value chain distorted."

Dube urged government to formulate policies which will help revive the city's industries to create formal employment opportunities.

"Micro small-to-medium-scale enterprises must be promoted and supported by the government through start-ups to occupy and operate in those premises, in the process creating formal employment opportunities," Dube added.

The list of churches taking over industrial and business premises is long as one of the country's biggest Pentecostal churches, the United Family International Church, recently took over an industrial property in Belmont once occupied by Textile Mills, one of the city's biggest textile companies which employed hundreds of workers during its peak.

The company, after falling into financial doldrums, applied for the much-publicised government Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund to no avail.

Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association director Michael Ndiweni said: "It would have been better if these empty factories were partitioned and let them house small manufacturers that are sometimes seen scrambling for spaces all over in town.

"The bigger picture is that each one of us has to play a role in terms of contributing towards local economic development by ensuring that those buildings are repurposed and given to entrepreneurs and small manufacturers who can produce commodities for the market."

Source - Southern Eye