Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Charles Msipa has called for a timeous review of policies by government that affect business.
Msipa’s call comes at a time government is bedeviled by a number of challenges that include a debilitating liquidity crunch and widespread loss of jobs.
He is also Schweppes Zimbabwe Ltd MD.
In an exclusive interview with businessdigest this week, Msipa bemoaned the “glacial pace” at which policies are reviewed in the country.
“If I have a frustration, it is just the pace at which policy reviews are conducted. It often seems to move at a glacial pace for what the environment requires,” he said.
He said there was need to have a relook at some of the issues affecting business such as the country’s labour laws, which he discribed as “rigid and inflexible” particularly when it came to downsizing operations in a battle to save costs.
Msipa said they had made submissions to government for the revision of the country’s labour laws.
He said the high cost of retrenching workers when businesses were experiencing low capacity forced companies to close shop altogether when jobs could have been saved had retrenchment costs not been so high.
He expressed concern over the wave of retrenchments that have resulted in more than 4 600 workers losing their job since the beginning of the year.
“I feel for all the people losing jobs. There is a lot of pain in industry,” Msipa said. “What keeps me awake at night is the possibility that one day I might have to tell certain people to go home. So far, thank goodness we (at Schweppes) have not had to do that as we are still growing our revenues.”
He said CZI would announce the findings of its survey on the performance of the manufacturing sector in 2014 next month.
Msipa said the results of the survey, which include the country’s current capacity utilisation, would be revealed on October 7.
“We have been carrying out a very extensive annual survey with companies in the manufacturing sector, both CZI and non CZI companies,” said Msipa. “It has been a very thorough process. The fieldwork has been completed. The results are being analysed and tabulated and we will be presenting the results of the 2014 survey on October 7.”
The manufacturing sector faces a myriad of challenges that include outdated equipment, unreliable and expensive electricity, lack of long-term funding to sustain operations and low capacity utilisation which plunged from 57,2% in 2011 to 39,6% last year.
He revealed that during the course of the next three weeks CZI members would meet to come up with recommendations for the 2015 national budget presentation by Chinamasa expected in November.
Msipa said that he would want to dovetail the CZI 2015 budget recommendations to the finance minister with other business membership organisations (BMOs) that include the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Mines and the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe.
“We would like to co-ordinate our position with other BMOs because what we need in this country now is a manifesto for business as a whole. We would like to have a business position and a business agenda that says what we now need is to get business driving the economy forward,” Msipa said.
The CZI president said it would be unrealistic to have expected Chinamasa to address all the challenges bedeviling the manufacturing sector when he presented his mid-term fiscal policy last week.
“I don’t think the minister could have been expected to wave a magic wand and fix and resolve all the problems with the mid-term fiscal policy. I think that will be really unrealistic of us,” Msipa said. “I think he articulated a lot of the problems very well and I think he also served notice that he is looking forward to submissions from stakeholders for the budget process where he will obviously be looking to extend and deepen some of the initiatives.”
Mispa said while he understood concerns by captains of industry that they should have been part of President Robert Mugabe’s recent trip to China where a number of deals were signed between the two countries, he believes there are vast opportunities for business to benefit within the framework of the agreements signed between Zimbabwe and China.
“I don’t think that I buy the argument that we were compromised by not being there because that was really framework agreements that were developed. It is now up to Zimbabwe businesses to get involved,” Msipa said. “Certainly I would hope and expect there will be a significant role for local businesses in all that infrastructure work and I don’t think that it is too late for such businesses to come forward.”
On the performance of Schweppes, Msipa said the beverage company has made a number of investments that have allowed the company to broaden its portfolio and expand its distribution chain in an environment of reduced aggregate demand.
“I would say we are faring reasonably well in a difficult environment domestically and we are also redoubling our efforts to grow our export business regionally,” he said.