‘We’ll with­draw your licenses’

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Den­ford Mu­tashu

AS THE Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe Re­tail­ers, we have been as­sess­ing com­mod­ity prices coun­try­wide. We un­der­stand prices have been go­ing up steadily over the last six months at a rate of about 7, 7 to 15 per­cent.

We sought to find out why be­cause we continued to get com­plaints from cus­tomers and con­fed­er­a­tion mem­bers.

So we en­gaged sup­pli­ers who in­di­cated that they were fac­ing for­eign cur­rency con­straints. They also in­di­cated that most of their raw ma­te­ri­als were be­ing im­ported.

That im­port com­po­nent is ac­tu­ally the ma­jor driver of for­eign cur­rency de­mand among sup­pli­ers. We then wrote to Gov­ern­ment through the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent and Cab­i­net and the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe Gover­nor, Dr John Man­gudya.

Dr Man­gudya re­sponded swiftly by call­ing a meet­ing.

We in­vited a cross-sec­tion of sup­pli­ers and play­ers in the re­tail and whole­sale sec­tors, and high­lighted to the Gover­nor what we felt needed to be done ur­gently.

A num­ber of sup­pli­ers, in­clud­ing oil pro­ces­sors, needed for­eign cur­rency.

The RBZ’s quick dis­burse­ment of for­eign cur­rency was some­thing we con­tinue ap­plaud­ing as we then man­aged to bring in the re­quired raw ma­te­ri­als.

We high­lighted cook­ing oil and fuel avail­abil­ity.

Long fuel queues send a wrong mes­sage to the gen­eral pub­lic, so this was an area we spoke to Dr Man­gudya about.

A mes­sage I will con­tinue to send out there is that Zim­babwe will never go back to the 200⅞ hy­per­in­fla­tion era.

On Septem­ber 23, we woke up to se­ri­ous price hikes of up to 200 per­cent. We were shocked. Prod­ucts that had been sell­ing at US$2 sud­denly went up to US$10.

For ex­am­ple, the price of a bot­tle of cook­ing oil that had been slightly above US$3 shot up to US$8.

Af­ter en­gag­ing sup­pli­ers and Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s state­ment on his re­turn from the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly, some prices de­clined.

How­ever, we no­ticed that some peo­ple were rais­ing prices marginally. For in­stance, one would re­duce a price to, say, US$0,60 and not the orig­i­nal US$0,40. This is a multi-cur­rency econ­omy dom­i­nated by the United States dol­lar. Any price in­crease, even by a cent, is quite sig­nif­i­cant.

Presently, cook­ing oil prices have been re­duced from US$8 to US$5 per 2-litre bot­tle. This is still very high as one can buy two bot­tles at the same price in South Africa.

We are ap­peal­ing to all those prof­i­teer­ing to stop spec­u­lat­ing. This is our coun­try; we have an obli­ga­tion not to short-change our con­sumers.

We want to com­mend the In­dus­try and Com­merce Min­istry for con­tin­u­ing to en­gage in­dus­try and re­tail­ers to come up with a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

Busi­ness does not want price con­trols, but there is need to act re­spon­si­bly.

This has been the mes­sage from Gov­ern­ment, too.

How do you ex­plain that mo­tor ve­hi­cle tyres that were be­ing sold for US$76 on Septem­ber 22 are now be­ing sold for US$230? It is not jus­ti­fi­able.

A lot of price in­creases that we see now are un­jus­ti­fied.

The other is­sue is that the coun­try has em­braced plas­tic and mo­bile money, and that is no­ble. How­ever, we have also seen that cer­tain play­ers are tak­ing ad­van­tage to charge ex­tra. We have vis­ited a lot of mo­bile money booths that are do­ing this. This is ret­ro­gres­sive. We have been ad­vo­cat­ing plas­tic money along­side the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe. We do not want a sit­u­a­tion where cus­tomers lose con­fi­dence in plas­tic money.

Some peo­ple are not dis­play­ing prices, and that is an of­fence.

We are go­ing around, tak­ing down names of re­tail­ers charg­ing speculative prices. We have for­warded their names to Gov­ern­ment and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit of the RBZ.

We are con­sid­er­ing dras­tic ac­tion, in­clud­ing with­draw­ing their li­cences.

As a na­tion, we need to get a stage where we call a spade a spade.

Even those who are not bank­ing also fea­ture on the list we have sub­mit­ted to Gov­ern­ment. We know them and have made rec­om­men­da­tions con­cern­ing th­ese in­di­vid­u­als.

We have to work with Gov­ern­ment to en­sure we come out of this sit­u­a­tion.

We are not go­ing to de­fend de­fi­ant re­tail­ers, but de­fend the turf of re­tail­ers who are do­ing well; who have the cause and con­cern of the econ­omy and con­sumers at heart. Charg­ing ab­nor­mal prices is to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

For­tu­nately, con­sumers have been very help­ful in giv­ing us a lot of in­for­ma­tion. Last week, we toured Mid­lands, and es­tab­lished that there was no multi-tier pric­ing in shops.

It is im­por­tant for Gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try to visit other ar­eas so that we do not make poli­cies based on Harare alone. We have to en­gage. We have been to Man­i­ca­land, Masvingo, Mid­lands, Mashona­land Cen­tral and Mashona­land East en­gag­ing re­tail­ers and most of them have com­plied. Now we are in Mata­bele­land. In Beit­bridge, some re­tail­ers were com­plain­ing that in­di­vid­u­als were smug­gling goods from South Africa and sell­ing them il­le­gally in the streets at low prices, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for them to com­pete.

So, that en­gage­ment is re­ally im­por­tant be­cause some re­tail­ers might not have in­for­ma­tion.

For ex­am­ple, some ad­mit­ted to in­creas­ing prices just be­cause their peers in Harare had done so.

One other rec­om­men­da­tion we have made is that Zim­babwe has largely gone in­for­mal, yet we have not done enough to cap­ture that in­for­mal sec­tor.

We are los­ing a lot of money be­cause most SME play­ers do not con­trib­ute any­thing to the fis­cus, and we con­tinue knock­ing on the doors of for­mal busi­nesses.

So, we run the risk of run­ning down for­mal busi­nesses. What is re­quired now is a pol­icy to co­or­di­nate th­ese two. Mr Den­ford Mu­tashu is pres­i­dent of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe Re­tail­ers. He was speak­ing to Sun­day Mail’s De­bra Matabvu in Harare last week

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.