Cletus Mushanawani News Editor
COOKING oil and soap producing concern, Willowton Zimbabwe has partnered Mega Market to set up a retail investment worth $35 million in Mutare.
Briefing the First Lady, Dr Amai Grace Mugabe during her meet the people rally at St John’s School in Buhera last Friday, Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs, Cde Mandi Chimene, said the plant was expected to run by June 2017.
“Willowton Zimbabwe and Mega Market have chosen Mutare, Manicaland’s capital as their production bases and are making huge investments to boost local production and employment. Willowton invested $40 million and produces soap and cooking oil and currently employs 100 workers,” she said.
Cde Chimene cited lack of recapitalisation, shortage of raw materials, outdated machinery and high cost of borrowing as some of the challenges saddling industrial growth in Manicala
“Cairns Foods is operating at 67 percent utilisation and supports over 1 000 farmers who are into soya bean production. This year, the company expects to put 400 hectares of Michigan beans under contract farming.
Cde Mandi Chimene
“Mutare Bottling Company is currently operating at 13,33 percent capacity utilisation. It is being affected by the smuggling of soft drinks from Mozambique. However, the company has acquired new plant equipment.
“Quest Motors is operating at five percent capacity utilisation and is largely affected by foreign currency shortages to secure raw materials,” said Cde Chimene.
She bemoaned the continuous presence of illegal settlers and gold panners in timber estates, saying this was having a telling effect on production.
“Border Timbers is under voluntary judiciary management and now operating at 60 percent capacity utilisation. The company and whole of the timber industry is affected by illegal settlers and illegal gold mining,” he said.
Turning to the mining sector, Cde Chimene said it was sad to note that Manicaland had nothing to show for its rich mineral resources.
“The province is endowed with gold, diamonds, vermiculate, phosphate, tantalite and copper. Illegal panning is rampant especially in Chimanimani at Tarka Estate where timber is being destroyed. Our mineral resources should not benefit a few individuals, but Zimbabwe as a whole. Corruption is just rampant and panners are wreaking havoc.
The country is losing a lot through these illegal activities.
“There is no diamond cutting and polishing in the province, yet most of the diamonds are being mined in Chiadzwa and Chimanimani.
The merging of diamond companies is highly appreciated, however, the process should move with speed to ensure that our communities benefit from the diamonds.
Furthermore, efforts should be made to acquire equipment relevant for deep mining of diamonds,” she said.
Dr Amai Mugabe also added her voice on adding value to minerals being mined in Manicaland.
“I totally agree that diamonds should be processed here in Manicaland. This should happen across the country where there are mineral deposits. Everything should not be transported to Harare or outside the country for processing. Every province should add value to its minerals and other natural resources,” said Dr Amai Mugabe.
Cde Chimene said community share ownership trusts should fulfil their mandate of empowering local communities.
“The Zimunya-Marange Community Share Ownership Trust has exhausted the initial funds and is left with $40 000. We expect the new company, Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company to fund the trust for more projects.
“No progress has been made by Mutasa Community Share Ownership despite its formation. Mettalon Gold Mine is expected to fund the trust as the year progresses.
Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment should enforce the law to ensure payments by the companies in Mutasa.
“In Buhera, Shava Mine is yet to meet their obligations despite the fact that the Buhera Community Share Ownership Trust is now registered,” said Cde Chimene.
She said Manicaland had identified 14 923 youths under the Zimbabwe Champions and Heroes of Economic Empowerment Revolution Programme who have created 29 817 jobs for other youths.
‘The projects identify youths who are already doing something for the economy. The Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment intends to fund the youths through Empower Bank which is being established for youths.
“A total of 650 youths were funded under the Youth Employment Creation fund by CBZ, CABS and IDBZ fund. The repayment rate is at 90 percent,” said Cde Chimene.