The ruling party Zanu-PF on Wednesday set up an ad hoc committee to deal with wanton increases of prices of basic commodities witnessed in the past three months. The committee chaired by the party’s Second Secretary and Vice President General Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga (retired) has been asked to deal decisively with unscrupulous business people.
Prices of most basic commodities have more than doubled since November mainly due to speculation and profiteering among producers and retailers. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has deplored profiteering tendencies by retailers that are randomly hiking prices of basic commodities and warned that Government would not hesitate to deal severely with such people.
A survey conducted in Bulawayo recently confirmed that most retailers and wholesalers had increased prices of basic commodities and the situation is the same in other cities and towns. What is clear is that these retailers and wholesalers are just after profiteering.
What has worsened the plight of consumers is that some of the retailers are not accepting swipe, Ecocash and telegraphic bank transfers yet Government is encouraging the use of plastic money. The country is facing a critical shortage of cash and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has said the solution to the cash crisis is for people to embrace the use of plastic money.
The retail shops that are refusing the use of plastic money and demanding cash are therefore going against the grain and must urgently be whipped into line. What is even more frightening is the fact that some shops are not just demanding cash but are demanding to be paid in United States dollars yet Government adopted the use of different currencies in 2009 and also introduced bond notes.
The shops that are demanding cash payments are hiding behind shortage of swipe machines but the truth is that most of these shops never applied for the machines. Prices of school uniforms also shot through the roof ahead of the start of the new school term on Tuesday.
The Zanu-PF Politburo which set up the committee chaired by Vice President Chiwenga, said it had come up with various strategies to curtail the price hikes madness. The party said it was aware of individuals that want to cause confusion and inflict economic pain on the people.
Government should punish severely a few businesses that are colluding on hiking prices in order to send a very clear message that unethical business conduct is not allowed.
This trend whereby businesses make super profits by exploiting consumers through charging exorbitant prices should be stopped forthwith. Businesspeople should be sensitive to the plight of consumers most of whom cannot afford basics.
We want at this juncture to commend Zanu-PF for responding to the people’s pleas. We probably need “Operation Restore Normalcy in the Market Place”.