EDITORIAL COMMENT: Govt should come up with measures to protect consumers

The Chronicle

Government has confirmed that Bulawayo businesses are fleecing consumers by charging exorbitant prices. Zanu-PF national secretary for the commissariat and also Deputy Minister of Defence and War Veterans Cde Victor Matemadanda confirmed that most businesses were overcharging after visiting a number of retail outlets in the city on Monday. “I came to Bulawayo to see if prices have been reduced in the shops following the announcement by President Mnangagwa. It’s unfortunate that prices are still too high in most shops and this must come to an end,” said Cde Matemadanda. 

He said what was happening in Bulawayo was daylight robbery which must be stopped. Cde Matemadanda warned that Government might be forced to withdraw operating licences for some of the defiant businesses. He said during his visit, some operators tried to change prices, a confirmation that they are aware that they are charging extortionist prices. 

Cde Matemadanda said Government appreciated the need for businesses to make profit but there was a need for a proper pricing system so that commodities remain affordable to the majority of consumers. He said some businesses were so unethical in their conduct to the extent of displaying different prices to those consumers were made to pay at the tills. 

Bulawayo is the worst affected by closure of companies which means most of the consumers being  exploited by overpricing businesses are the unemployed who are trying to eke a living in the informal sector. 

Vice President Kembo Mohadi recently appealed to businesses to refrain from charging what he described as exploitative prices and warned that Government would not hesitate to deal decisively with defiant businesses. 

Government last month removed the multi-currency regime and restricted domestic transactions to local currency renamed Zimbabwe dollar. Unscrupulous business people that were enjoying prices pegged in US dollar just converted the same prices to local currency hence the exorbitant prices being charged by most shops. 

There is an urgent need to tame the businesses’ insatiable appetite for the US dollar.  The Government has gone out of its way to create platforms to engage businesses before implementing major economic policies but what is coming out clear is that businesses have chosen to be defiant. 

It is time Government comes up with punitive measures in order to protect consumers. Those that are not prepared to serve Zimbabweans should just shut down. Government has been too lenient with these businesses that are probably advancing a political agenda by causing the suffering of the people. 

What is painful is that the same businesses that are charging extortionist prices are not increasing salaries of their own workers.

Local producers of some of the overpriced goods have gone to the extent of publishing recommended retail prices but these are being ignored with impunity by these defiant businesses.