HARARE - South African businesses in Zimbabwe were mostly open on Wednesday as the army took over control and confined President Robert Mugabe to his home in the aftermath of the sacking of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa early this month.
Although most businesses such as Pick n Pay stores, MBCA – a division of Nedbank – and PPC were open for business, bank branches and stores near the parliament building which was cordoned off were closed.
SA President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said he had spoken to Mugabe over the phone while the Zimbabwean army said the long-time ruler was safe. On the streets of Harare, the military maintained a heavy presence while army soldiers conducted searches at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
There were no delays or cancellations of flights into and out of Harare by Wednesday afternoon. Econet Wireless, the biggest telco in Zimbabwe, said it was operating normally, although its chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni was locked in meetings all day.
“It’s normal and we are operating normally. We operate normally under any environment and there is nothing to fear,” said Lovemore Nyatsine, executive secretary to the Econet chief executive. “All our services are up and we are at work as we speak,” he added.
Impala Platinum, which runs the biggest mining operation, Zimplats in the country said its operations had not been disturbed by developments in the mineral rich northern neighbour of SA. However, Implats spokesperson, Johan Theron told Business Report that the company was closely monitoring the situation on the ground.
“While there are reports of military presence in the country’s capital to date there has been no sign of unrest or military presence at any of our mining operations,” said Theron.
Zimplats mines in the Ngezi area, west of the capital, and the company’s operations “continued to operate normally” and without incident, he added.
Bloomberg reported that other businesses in Zimbabwe were being vigilant over their operations in the country 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 takeover under the G40 grouping.
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.
A sense of trepidation, tense and fear hung over the city as ordinary Zimbabweans went about their business. A Pick n Pay store in central Harare, along Jason Moyo Avenue, was open and shoppers swiped and used mobile money to buy groceries and food.
Most business leaders were holding meetings to prepare for worst case scenarios including an escalation in the stand-off as it was reported that the army was negotiating with Mugabe although it is not yet known what their demands are.
Across the Jason Moyo Street in central Harare, an Old Mutual owned bank, CABS, was also open for business although activity was low. The Jason Moyo Street is less than 300 meters from the parliament building which was cordoned off. A branch of Standard Chartered Bank near the parliament was closed
“We are open as you can see and people are transacting well. We don’t know what will come next few hours and days and we will be taking instructions from our head office,” a supervisor at a Pick n Pay outlet in central Harare told Business Report.
Major general, Sibusiso Moyo, said in a state televised statement run occasionally throughout the day that the military was not taking over the governance of Zimbabwe. “To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military take-over of government,” he said.
It was not clear by the time of writing what was set to happen to Mugabe although reports showed that the military was taking a non-confrontational approach. The war veterans that were ousted by Mugabe from Zanu PF said Mugabe should be recalled and called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry into possible abuseof office.
Sources said the military wanted Zanu PF to resolve its crisis at an extra congress scheduled for mid-next month, with Mnangagwa reportedly set to return to Zimbabwe to contest for the leadership of Zanu PF and subsequently to stand for general elections to choose a new administration next year.
- BUSINESS REPORT