No holds-barred as ED meets business
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday held candid discussions with captains of industries, retailers, bankers and consumers with a view to locate challenges and possible solutions to problems faced in production of goods and services resulting in shortages and sky-high prices.
The no holds-barred discussions were held from 0830hrs to about 1230hrs at State House in Harare.
Journalists only covered President Mnangagwa’s keynote address, before being asked to leave the interactive session between Government and business.
The media were then invited for the closing remarks done by the President.
“We had a very frank exchange of views which in the end separated boys from men and girls from ladies,” said President Mnangagwa.
“The views that have been put forward, were all important, some were excellent, some were very good, some were good and others were fair and few were bad.
“But all those categories of views are useful. We can only move when we interrogate excellent views as against the bad views, the fair views as against the very good ones; all ought to be interrogated to find a common path.”
President Mnangagwa said some of the captains of industry called for the creation of an advisory council to assist him with certain decisions. He said the proposal was “work in progress”. Said President Mnangagwa: “I see that the structure of business (represented) here is well structured. We have the mining sector, CZI, ZNCC, bankers, retailers and consumers.
“I would wish that all these sub-sectors, each produce the best brain to my council. Not that I will accept the many views that you give me, but I will look at it.
“Let me assure you that we noted all the views that you have expressed here and I have no doubt that all views have been expressed with honesty and sincerity with the desire for us to move forward together. Let that be the spirit.”
Although President Mnangagwa was a bit guarded on some of the issues interrogated during the meeting, a source that attended told Our Harare Bureau yesterday that Government raised concern on the extortionate prices being charged by retailers.
Manufacturers, some of whom are accused of deliberately withholding products in the last few weeks hoping to resell in the near future, are understood to have complained about the indefinite suspension of Statutory Instrument 122 of 2017 to allow those with free funds to import basic goods and fill up supermarket shelves.
SI 122, formerly SI 64 of 2016, restricts the importation of goods that can ordinarily be produced in Zimbabwe such as cooking oil, dairy products, and construction products, among others.
Industrialists insisted they have capacity to produce the products that are in short supply but Government is understood to have dug in and said the suspension will stay for some time.
Sources said the industrialists then tried to lobby Government to issue permits to those willing to import the basic goods to avoid a situation of over-supply, but again, Government is said to have poured cold water on the proposals.
Representatives from ZNCC and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) are said to have supported the suspension of SI 122.
Other issues said to have been raised by industry pertain to policy consistency and reducing Government expenditure.
President Mnangagwa said Government is keen to cut down on costs.
“We must all be humble and Government must lead in that example. We shall continue to make big cuts to perks and unnecessary expenditure so that Government lives within its means,” said the President.
He promised to have more interactive sessions with businesspeople to ensure the economy moves forward.
“You have requested that we meet, some said twice a year; I need more than twice a year. We, as the current administration, know that your input is crucial in moving forward.
“The days when Government made decisions without consulting the private sector are now behind us. In the new dispensation, dialogue is a two-way street (and) the private sector and the public sector must traverse this new path handin-hand to build the Zimbabwe we want.”