The Liquor Traders Association have appealed for an exemption on their rental obligations as their businesses have not been operating since the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020.
When the lockdown was first implemented last year, only essential services were allowed to operate with non-essential services forced to close as part of measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
In April last year, President Mnangagwa invoked the Temporary Presidential Powers and froze rental increases and stopped any evictions or court action against tenants who fail to pay their landlords.
The moratorium was lifted in September.
In a letter addressed to the Minister of Industry and Commerce Sekai Nzenza, the Chairperson of Liquor Traders Association, Rejoice Mafukidze said rentals are their major concern as they keep ballooning even though they have other areas of concern.
“As noted above the liquor outlets have been closed from March 2020. Despite the unwavering support and declaration from his Excellency Cde ED Mnangagwa on rental reprieve, the reprieve excluded commercial properties. The arrears keep on ballooning as we are not trading and the payment obligations will still remain with each passing month.
“Our outlets face a mammoth task in staying afloat as utility costs continue to rise without trading. ZESA and water payment obligations continue as some of the product needs to be refrigerated to enhance its quality in the cold rooms, lighting and alarm system”.
Mafukidze also noted that the sector has also failed to fulfill its obligation to pay salaries.
“Bulawayo has 1,015 registered outlets with the liquor licensing board. These outlets employ an average of 15,225 individuals who are facing an uncertain future. The liquor selling industry transcends to the extended families that rely on the revenue and proceeds from the sector. On the backdrop of a huge slump in diaspora remittances owing to covid-19, our sector is a viable option to fight poverty.
“Since the declaration of lockdown, we have not been able to operate and have resulted in failure to fulfil our commitment to paying wages. A section of our outlets employs permanent employees and the payment obligation will be remaining one way or the other,” said the Liquor Traders Association Chairperson.
In addition, Mafukidze said the sector is likely to make more losses due to expired stocks.
“Since the pronouncement of the lockdown, our sector has not been able to sell stock which is in the warehouse. The threat of losses in expired products continues to multiply as uncertainty hovers around the sector. A section of outlets will not be able to resume operations due to losses which result in lost jobs,” she said