(171115) -- HARARE, Nov. 15, 2017 (Xinhua) -- A soldier and an armored vehicle patrol on a street in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017. Armored carriers cordoned off Zimbabwe's Presidential seat of power and Parliament Building in the capital while helicopters circled the city center on a drizzly morning, after the military announced it had taken over control of all government institutions. (Xinhua/Philimon Bulawayo) (psw)
JOHANNESBURG - South African business in Zimbabwe remained mostly open yesterday, but on high alert, as the army took over control and confined President Robert Mugabe to his home.

Banks near the parliament building that was cordoned off by the army were, however, closed.

The military maintained a heavy presence on the streets of the capital Harare, with soldiers conducting searches at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. Econet Wireless, the country’s largest telecommunications company, said it was operating normally.

“It’s normal and we are operating normally. We operate normally under any environment and there is nothing to fear,” said spokesperson Lovemore Nyatsine. “All our services are up and we are at work as we speak.” Reports emerged yesterday that some businesses had upped their vigilance amid reports that explosions had rocked the capital as soldiers reportedly overpowered police and security protecting Zanu-PF leaders that were pushing for Grace Mugabe to take over under the G40 grouping.

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Implats also half owns the Mimosa mine in Zvishavane, while Anglo Platinum controls the Unki mine in Shurugwi, all in the Midlands Province, considered a stronghold of former vice-president Mnangagwa. Nedbank sent its employees home as a safety precaution.

“Nedbank can confirm that our operations in Zimbabwe remain open and active. We are monitoring the situation and will take appropriate steps if required,” Nedbank said. “Currently, South African staff are returning home. The safety of our staff remains a priority.” Pick * Pay group executive strategy and corporate affairs David North said the food retailer was monitoring the situation closely, like everyone.

“We are in close touch with our colleagues in Zimbabwe to ensure our customers and staff are safe,” North said. “All Pick * Pay stores are open and are meeting the needs of their customers. It’s also worth noting that the Zimbabwe operations are joint ventures with local partners.”

A sense of trepidation, tension and fear hung over Harare, with business leaders holding meetings to prepare for worst case scenarios. Anglo American Platinum, the world’s biggest platinum producer, said that it continued to monitor developments in Zimbabwe. “Unki Mine is operating normally. The safety of our employees is of utmost importance and we will take appropriate action necessitated by unfolding events," said the company.

Impala Platinum, the world’s second biggest platinum producer, said it was also monitoring developments closely in Zimbabwe. Johan Theron, Impala Platinum spokesperson, said there had been no sign of unrest or military presence at any of its mining operations.

“Our operations are all located some distance from the capital, and have continued to operate normally this morning. We will continue to assess the situation, and have appealed for calm and the continued safety and well-being of the people of Zimbabwe." Standard Bank said it was aware of and closely monitoring the recent developments taking place in Zimbabwe.

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“We can confirm that there has been minimal negative impact to our operations in Zimbabwe today. The safety and security of our staff remains a key priority. We continue to monitor events in Zimbabwe as they unfold,” said Sola David-Borha, Standard Bank Group Africa regions chief executive.

Edcon, South Africa’s biggest fashion retailer, also confirmed it was business as normal in Zimbabwe. Godfrey Mwanza, head of Pan-African listed equities at Absa Wealth & Investment Management said sentiment from commentators and analysts hint towards positive "relief" that perhaps this was the turning point observers had been waiting for.

Mwanza said over the last decade, unlike most African economies, Zimbabwe had contracted in constant currency terms. This created a very low base from which to recover. From a policy reform perspective, low-hanging fruit included doing away with the country’s infamous indigenisation policy.

“The fact that it will not take much to grow from this very low level creates a temptation to believe that any change to the status quo is positive. We are more sceptical of this, given how little we know about the economic policy leaning of whichever administration emerges from the current evolution,” said Mwanza.