The Sunday Mail
Negotiations are set to continue between Government and business in good faith to ensure retailers come up with “fair and affordable” prices for basic commodities in accordance with the standing moratorium.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said authorities were aware that some unscrupulous retailers are wantonly increasing prices of goods, defying a directive to revert to price levels that existed as at March 25, just before the national lockdown.
“We put a moratorium based on good faith. We met with retailers and agreed on the reduction of prices to ease the exorbitant costs of basic commodities.
“Such an agreement can only work if parties honour the promise,” she said.
Asked if Government was going to take punitive measures against businesses that have defied its directive, Dr Nzenza said:
“We will continue to engage in dialogue with our key stakeholders in the retail and manufacturing sectors. I sincerely hope we will reach an understanding in order to give the consumer fair, affordable and accessible basic food”.
Dr Nzenza, however, said Government would continue to ensure consumers access goods at subsidised prices.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Mr Denford Mutashu, said retailers were being forced to increase prices due to inflationary pressures.
“Inflationary pressures have continued to mount. Production has not increased to boost supply yet costs are mounting. The economic environment has remained largely unpredictable under the impact of Covid-19 and other perennial inconsistencies on the country’s economic direction,” he said.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Matabeleland regional manager, Mr Comfort Muchekeza, said there was need for more engagement between Government and business.
“There is always a need to come up with not only cheap and affordable prices, but realistic prices, which allow business to continue supplying the market with quality goods and services while at the same time being within the reach of consumers,” he said.
Mr Muchekeza noted that there was a need to also address the high cost of production being faced by manufacturers so as to ensure that the end product is obtained by consumers at an affordable price.
“Our pricing system must not be divorced from the salaries and wages. Price freeze should not be isolated from the fundamentals of our economic activities.
“If we can’t freeze all other builds up and contributors to the final price, freezing the price of the final product will be difficult to implement even though we would all have agreed to the freeze,” he said.
However, National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) advocacy advisor, Mr Effie Ncube, said retailers were ignoring the price moratorium by the Government due to their profiteering tendencies.
“Clearly the moratorium is being ignored. The culture of profiteering is well entrenched and addictive.
“Government should therefore change their approach and find a more effective way to ensure affordable prices on basic commodities.
“The most effective way is an all-stakeholders round table comprising Government, business and representatives of consumers and labour,” he
The country has experienced a wave of price increases for almost two years, most of which have been attributed to business pegging their
prices against the parallel market foreign exchange rates.
This continuous rise in prices has increased calls from the people for the Government to intervene and reprimand the business community.