Forex/fuel crisis bites building contractors

Eric Chiriga

WHILE government is busy destroying homes in the name of cleaning up urban areas, building contractors and materials manufacturers are operating at below capacity due to lack of fuel and foreign

currency.


“During the year foreign currency shortages worsened, creating serious problems in sourcing imported raw glass, glue and critical spares,” PG Industries (Zimbabwe) Ltd (PG) said.


The company said manufacturing output fell to below 50% of capacity due to unscheduled shut downs of both Zimboard and Plate Glass Manufacturing.


PG said it was planning to reduce investment in manufacturing and to dispose of properties.


PG is involved in the manufacture and distribution of building materials.


“With evidently no immediate solution to the prevailing critical shortage of diesel and petrol in the country, the Zimbabwe Building Contractors Association (ZBCA) is seriously concerned about the devastating impact this is having on operations,” Concordia Rukodzi, the chief executive officer of the ZBCA, said.


Rukodzi said without fuel, which is very essential for the operation of plant and machinery, the work of contractors had virtually ground to a halt.


She said because most contractors had been hard-hit by the fuel crisis, management and supervision of building projects had also been severely compromised.


“In many instances contractors have been forced to suspend building operations and park their vehicles and other equipment due to lack of diesel and petrol,” Rukodzi said.


She however said the construction industry should benefit immensely from the massive housing projects being proposed by government, depending on the availability of fuel.


Charles Gomba, operations manager at United Builders Merchants (UBM), a division of Radar Holdings, said they were unable to import building materials due to foreign currency shortages.


“We are experiencing a shortage of building materials that are not locally manufactured, for instance taps and copper tubing,” Gomba said.


He said Clay Products, one of their suppliers, was also failing to deliver clay pipes due to foreign currency shortage.


Gomba said the shortage of standard wooden doors was due to the destruction of forests during and in the wake of government-inspired land invasions.


“During the land invasions a lot of forestry, particularly pine trees, was lost

and it takes about 25 five years for the trees to be fully grown.” He said the fuel crisis had also dealt a big blow to their distribution activities.


The government recently embarked on a clean-up campaign named “Operation Murambatsvina” resulting in the destruction of homes and other shelter in urban areas. The operation left thousands of people homeless.


It has since launched “Operation Garikai” under which it has undertaken to construct more than 20 000 houses.


However, human rights groups have condemned the operation saying government was responsible for the emergence of the so-called illegal structures.

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