Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Reporter
THOUSANDS of workers who were retrenched when most companies embarked on massive job layoffs in the last two years are set to be re-engaged mainly in agro-processing companies that are gearing for increased productivity from the anticipated crop bumper harvest, Sunday News can reveal.
Although numbers that will be re-engaged could not be easily obtained last week as both industry and Government are assessing the anticipated yields that will be delivered for commercial purposes, the Government has already set the ball rolling by giving an order to the Grain Marketing Board to re-engage contract workers who were retrenched as the parastatal prepares to receive millions of tonnes of grain from farmers this season.
In addition, one of country’s largest companies, Cold Storage Company, which used to employ 1 500 permanent workers and thousands more contract workers across its estates and abattoirs, is set to come back to life after the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has agreed a deal to resuscitate the Bulawayo headquartered company.
In separate interviews last week, captains of industry and senior Government officials all confirmed that the successful agriculture season which was beckoning was set to ignite massive employment opportunities especially in agriculture and its support industries. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said GMB has already started re-engaging workers that it retrenched. GMB fired more than 1 200 workers in the last two years after business at the parastatal plummeted due to recurrent droughts the country was experiencing.
“With the massive crop yield we are anticipating and enormous grain expected to be delivered at GMB it’s only natural and logical that GMB re-engages its former workers on contract basis. Obviously it can’t employ new people without the requisite skills.
“Over the years, GMB was taking in little grain that’s one of the reasons which led to it retrenching but this year we expect much improved grain deliveries, not only of maize but there are ground and round nuts as well as small grains such as millet and sorghum,” said Dr Made.
GMB acting general manager Mr Lawrence Jasi confirmed the recruitment exercise although he could not give figures.
“Yes, we were given the greenlight to employ but I cannot comment on the issue of our former employees. I haven’t been given authority to speak on that issue so I am afraid I can’t comment,” he said.
Dr Made, however, said the agriculture sector is set to lead in driving the Government agenda to provide employment to its people.
“There will be a number of satellite depots in various areas around the country and those will have to be manned by skilled personnel. GMB has silos with a capacity of three million tonnes and the loading automated so labour will be required.
“We need skilled people, the ones whom we trained. It’s not only GMB that is expected to employ but other companies in the agro-processing sector and there is even the construction of roads that will be done,” he said.
On CSC, Dr Made confirmed that NSSA has been brought in to revive the company and this week a new board to steer the company will be announced.
“Next week (this week) I will be announcing the CSC board and I can also confirm that NSSA will be injecting resources into the CSC so that we focus on the development of the livestock sector with particular interest in Matabeleland South and North, some parts of Midlands and Masvingo because these are predominantly livestock areas but the livestock programme is for the whole country,” said Dr Made.
He, however, could not be drawn into divulging how much NSSA would inject into CSC’s operations stating that such information would be announced in due course.
CSC has its biggest abattoir in Bulawayo which is one of the biggest in Africa and then others in Masvingo, Chinhoyi, Marondera and Kadoma. It also has a number of estates, some it has been leasing to private farmers. NSSA is a Government run pension fund with over $1 billion worth of assets under its management.
Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa said Zimbabwe will revert back to become an agro-driven economy following the bumper harvest with a number of sectors set to benefit and also employ. She said sectors like transport will have to increase capacity to ferry the produce to markets.
“We are an agro-based economy and if we have a bumper harvest definitely it will turnaround our country’s economy…we will open value chains that were being suppressed by imports replacing with our own agro-business and that will also lead to job creation,” she said.
Zimbabwe cotton ginning companies, that had virtually closed are also expected to be revived and re-employ as the country is expecting improved cotton production this year following massive support from Government
Deputy Minister Mabuwa said, “Zimbabwe used to be one of the biggest producers of cotton lint in Africa but it had fallen to number six but with the anticipated bumper harvest and the Government’s support to the sector we expect to reclaim our position.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Busisa Moyo acknowledged that employment figures in the agricultural sector were expected to rise.
“The employment in agriculture and agro-processing companies is likely to increase. We need to complement this with local minimum content purchase rules so that those that are maniacal about imports do not undermine pricing of locally manufactured products,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Made has said his Ministry was engaging the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to increase withdrawal limits for cotton producers the same way it did for tobacco farmers recently.
Zimbabwe is expecting one of its best agriculture seasons after a number of initiatives were put in place to revive the sector.
Top of the initiatives are the Command Agriculture Programme and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme which helped farmers both commercial and communal to access inputs. The country is expecting to 2,2 million tonnes of maize, enough to meet the country’s 1, 8 million tonnes for domestic needs. The Government also scaled up input support for the cotton farmers, with 400 000 households receiving free inputs covering a hectare each.