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Musa Ndlangamandla - SWAZI OBSERVER-06-Jun-2009

His Majesty King Mswati III on Friday toured a car assembly plant in Zimbabwe, where he held talks with management about possible cooperation with the Kingdom of Swaziland.

The Willowvale Car Assembly plant specialises in Mazda and it uses kits that are transported from the mother company in Japan. The company assembles bakkies and sedans and exports some of its vehicles to neighbouring Malawi. The King was informed how sanctions against Zimbabwe, which were pushed by Western countries have suffocated the business, leading to major job losses.

From a time when they were manufacturing over 9 000 cars per year, the company now has to contend with making 2 000 vehicles and the staff has been cut to a mere 200. “Your Majesty, the sanctions have hit hard on the company. This is because our main market is domestic and the corporate world uses our vehicles. Now with the sanctions, we are receiving less and less orders, mainly because the companies which support us are also hit by the problems,” said a manager who briefed the King. He expressed confidence though that with the Inclusive Government’s STERP programme, which seeks to revive the economy, things will improve. The King was told that some of the parts were sourced locally. These are such items as batteries, windshields and paint.

His Majesty said he was impressed by what he observed during the tour and encouraged the management and staff to work harder. “We understand the difficulties you are faced with. But we are confident that the government and the people of Zimbabwe will overcome all these challenges. You must come up with a strong marketing strategy and do not hesitate to approach us to see where we can assist,” he said. The King said he was impressed with the high standards that the company had set for itself, adding that if they strive to maintain quality in their products, they would have solved 90% of their challenges. Meanwhile, His Majesty toured Dairibord, a company that produces milk products in Harare. It was explained that the company was a public entity listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange with over 5 500 shareholders, all Zimbabweans. It started operations as DMB in 1952 and it currently employs 1 000 people, 80% of whom are shareholders. The holding company owns four entities 100% and one company 40% in Zimbabwe and one company 80% in Malawi. The range of products include liquid milks such as fresh and long shelf life; yoghurts, ice cream, a variety of cheese and beverages, which include juices, cordials and water. Even in this company, His Majesty was told that because of the economic challenges Zimbabwe is faced with, capacity utilisation was now low. However, the company is optimistic that things will improve

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