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Ms Sithembiso Nyoni, minister of Women Affairs,
Community,Small and Medium Enterprises Development
By NewsDay

GOVERNMENT is considering adopting a Rwanda-style co-operatives model as it seeks to reactivate community-driven development projects, NewsDay Business can reveal. Co-operatives gained prominence at independence in 1980, when the government that took over after almost a century of colonial administration encouraged low-income families and rural communities to pool resources and establish income-generating projects.

Co-operatives were crucial in the late former President Robert Mugabe’s efforts to industrialise rural areas, where millions were unemployed as the liberation war ended in 1980.
However, the co-operative system has generally flopped in Zimbabwe. Millions of people, who lost jobs after de-industrialisation, have opted to work as small-scale traders, instead of operating in organised systems.
Many factors have led to this transition, but heavy taxation and punitive operating licence fees are among the reasons driving small businesses into a different direction.
NewsDay Business was told that following a Cabinet directive last year, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni led a delegation to Rwanda to study that country’s co-operative system which was blossoming.
A document released by the ministry after the trip recommended adopting the Rwandan model.
« The Rwandan co-operative model is used as a reference for the remodelling of the operation of Zimbabwe co-operatives, where an independent agency is established to organise, regulate and promote economic and social activities of co-operatives, » the document said.
« The report recommends the use of co-operatives in the inclusive mobilisation of communities to participate in nation building including rural industrialisation, the mobilisation of women, youths, minorities and those with disabilities to galvanise them to participate in the economic transformation of their country hence inculcating oneness and patriotism, » the document said.
The documents said a memorandum of understanding on co-operative and entrepreneurship development would be considered between the two countries.
« Co-operatives be adopted as a tool for community organisation for participation in grassroots socioeconomic development along specific value chains in line with natural endowments in each locality for the achievement of National Development Strategy 1 and Vision 2030 goals. The whole of government approach be strengthened from grassroots level in the implementation of all government programmes, including co-operative development, » the document added.
Land invasions led by war veterans resulted in scores of people occupying peri-urban farms. They later parcelled out pieces of land to desperate home-seekers.
Some citizens settled on wetlands, resulting in the general mushrooming of dysfunctional settlements. Other land invaders organised themselves into co-operatives.
In addition, there was also a shift in policy with senior government officials ordering the ban of co-operatives.
This further promoted chaos in the co-operative sector.
Lack of capacity development, coupled with corrupt tendencies among officers also negatively impacted on co-operative development, according to experts.
These developments compromised supervision and monitoring thus further compounding the challenges faced by co-operatives.
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