The opposition parties under the banner National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) staged anti-Government protests that culminated in the wanton destruction of properties and massive looting of goods from stores. The previous week, the MDC-T youths wing calling itself #MyZimbabwe staged similar riotous protests that also had seismic impact on the economy in Harare and Zimbabwe in general.
A Harare based economist, Kingston Murombe said the protests worsened the economic situation that is already struggling to stand on its feet.
“Ninety percent of the economy is in the informal sector and that is the same sector that was hard hit by the riots. The vendors had their wares violently taken and those in the informal sector around the city closed shops early,” said Murombe.
Vendors and retailers are demanding compensation for their looted goods. The national chairman of Grassroots Vendors’ Association Alexio Mudzengerere said the looters were frustrating the national economic vision which aims at growing vendors into big enterprises.
“Our stuff was burnt and we do not have anything left. We do not even know where to start from. Why should the protestors burn our goods? We saw the people who burnt our goods and we have videos. They were wearing MDC-T T-shirts. Demonstrations do not benefit us at all. They are now used as a way to loot shops,” said Mudzengerere.
The MDC-T and other opposition political parties have been at the fore front criticizing government for the economic downturn. Analysts said the same party was now at the front position precipitating the declining of the struggled economy.
A clothing retailer along Leopold Takawira said she lost most of her wares including those that were still in the stockroom. She said they were yet to finish the valuation of the looted goods. However, she said she had so far established that she lost suits worth $4 600.
An economist with a local Non Governmental Organization (NGO) explained the impact of protests on an economy.
“It is not hard to imagine that demonstrations of this nature directly damages property values and economic activity.
When people smash windows, steal things, or set buildings and property on fire, that all has direct economic costs.
Moreover, if people are rioting they are not working, and even those who are not involved in the disturbances are affected. They cannot get to work, shop or otherwise carry on with business as usual,” said the economist who preferred anonymity.
Some economic analysts suggested that the recent riots cost the city nearly $1 million in taxable sales and a lot more millions in direct sales tax revenue in addition to hundreds of thousands dollars in property damage.
“Riots also produce a clear deterrent for business owners to locate their operations in riot-prone areas. Who in their right mind builds a factory where they fear there is some reasonable risk that it will be burnt to the ground?” asked an economist with a local university.
Mr Tendai Muzanenhamo, a property estate expert said the riots have already affected prices of properties around the Central Business District (CBD)
“Riots are bad for property values, as people do not want to live in those areas and many property owners are hesitant to rebuild or repair in the aftermath. Riots also appear to be bad for employment and businesses are not going to put valuable capital at risk like that, so they will locate their operations in safer places,” said Mr Muzanenhamo.
He went on to say that even tourist arrival have been dented because of the riots.
Source – John Sigauke