Prices: Onus on Government to intervene


THERE are some unscrupulous businesspeople in the country who are trying to force the Government to re-dollarise by rejecting the local currency component in the multi-currency basket. 

But to the best of our knowledge, the Zim dollar remains legal tender.

Alternatively, these businesspeople are conniving with blackmarket sharks, who are determined to devalue the local currency to ridiculous levels against the US dollar. Again this is illegal.

While the official rate by Monday was about ZW$1 400 to US$1, in one Bulawayo supermarket (name withheld) the black market rate was pegged at ZW$5 500 to US$1. This exhibition of greed and spirit of profiteering by retailers, which is bringing unbearable misery to consumers, has to be stopped.

This is against a background of a Government pushing hard for the revival of the economy. Yet this is not at all appreciated by some sections of the business community who have learned from former US Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker, that the Zimbabwean economy must ‘scream’ first in order for people to turn against ZANU PF.

After all, harmonised general elections are just around the corner.

However, their evil manoeuvres and their strange appetite for the US dollar are there for all to see. We have some manufacturers who have been subsidised, through forex allocation, with funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Auction System.

In return, they then channel their products to the informal sector where they are sold in US dollars only.  What is left is channelled to formal retailers, where  black market rates have heavily worn down the local currency. Using local currency, one does not need a trolley to purchase grocery worth around ZW$100 000 from a supermarket. And this is more than the gross salary of most consumers.  

Just imagine a loaf of bread that cost ZW$1 800 last week, going at ZW$4 000 on Monday this week. And 10kg of Red Seal Super Roller Meal going for ZW$4 800 last week was now pegged at ZW$27 999 by Monday this week.

To rub salt to the wound, some retailers openly declare that they only serve customers with US dollars!

And there are many who are like-minded. Some avoid Zim dollars by claiming that internet is down or alternatively it is the electronic paying system which is faulty. In more weird cases, a whole shop will avail a single check-out-point for Zim dollar payments. The long queue will eventually force some customers to reluctantly use the US dollar. 

What is puzzling is the source of courage for these people whose behaviour is blatantly illegal. We understand the RBZ has inspectors and other people authorised to monitor adherence to pricing regulations.

Where are they?

By now, at least some consumers would have been consoled by seeing a number of such shops closed. Saboteurs should lose their operating licences for unilaterally hiking prices of basic commodities as President Emmerson Mnangagwa pointed out in his latest weekly column in The Sunday Mail.  

The President expressed dismay at the way business executives seemed to be conniving with opposition politicians to trigger consumer discontent. This is betrayal most foul. Just, consider the great lengths the Government has gone to support industry.

This is an industry which is allowed to keep most of the forex it generates after auction disbursements from the RBZ . There is nothing to show for the foreign currency business is accumulating as week-in and week-out they queue for more forex.

This raises the suspicion that business is either externalising foreign currency and/or using auction money for speculative purposes and feeding the black market. With the corrective measures the Government is taking, local manufacturers have wasted no time in flooding their goods on the informal market.

Here, through their agencies, they sell their goods and services in foreign currency only, before trotting back to the RBZ to seek more foreign currency.

Meanwhile, the buying public is anxiously looking to Government to come to the rescue of the consumer soonest. 


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