Leading Zimbabwe's bakery on verge of collapse

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s leading bakery, Lobel’s Bread (Pvt) Ltd, is on the brink of collapse, as it struggles to pay workers, make bread or meet service bills.

Only last week the company had power supplies cut off by ZESA over a $200 000 outstanding debt.

The bakery that in its heyday was arguably the biggest and most popular in the country was founded in 1950 by the Lobels family and later sold to a consortium of local Zanu PF businessmen who include Frederick Mutandah, an retired army brigadier Chiweza, Livingstone Gwata and Hebert Nkala.

But the consortium, some of whose members are some of the best business brains in the country, has struggled to keep the bakery afloat, amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption at its Southerton plant.

The bakery’s long serving chief executive Burombo Mudumo, financial director Nesbert Gufu and treasurer Tonderai Chipere were last month axed over allegations of misappropriation of more than US$10 million.

Short of cash the bakery has told workers it can only pay them salaries and wages dating back to three months ago by mid-November.

“Business is at a halt since last month with the company failing to procure flour. We everyday go there to just sit because there is no production,” said one senior employer at the bakery who spoke on condition he was not named.

Company officials could not be reached for comment on the matter. At its peak Lobels Bakery was a leader in the bread making industry, producing over 300 000 loaves of bread a day which has tumbled down to a paltry 15 000 loaves today.- The Zimbabwean