Consumers must rediscover their power

At the weekend, our sister paper The Sunday Mail, carried a story that bakers in the country were “plotting” to hike the price of bread to $4.

When the story spread — thanks to technology, pictures of the paper’s bill were first seen on social media — there was a sense of disquiet.

Slowly, the Zimbabwean consumer is fearing the worst. The consumer feels powerless and emasculated.

When trying to understand the story, the superficial excuse is the narrative of a tanking economy, itself a complex, but false phenomenon driven by dark forces whose unmasking is long overdue.

A discussion about the price of bread, the price of cooking oil and other commodities is generally drowned by this strawman.

Economists will talk about non-existent economic fundamentals and market forces. Those apply in other places and times. Zimbabwe’s economy is under siege and that has nothing to do with the laws of economics.

Rather the dark arts of sabotage, manipulation and profiteering rule these streets. They operate under the huge, dark cloud of hostile external forces that have abetted criminality and capture by oligarchs. In that sense, it is easy to see the consumer as powerless, when the opposite is true.

It is at a time like this that a strong citizenry should stand up to the madness and siege.

Enough is enough! This is a matter of bread and butter and medicines. It is a matter of life and Zimbabweans cannot continue to be exploited by a clique of profiteering individuals.

The collective power of consumers is huge, small wonder the old adage that the customer is king. What is lacking in Zimbabwe is strong civic leadership that gives sense and direction to action by consumers, who know no colour, religion or sex or political affiliation.

We are all in this together. Collective action such as a consumer boycott is not a new thing.

It is a response to predatory capitalism.

By definition, boycotts are organised, non-violent efforts to disrupt or cease business transactions with a particular company or group of companies in order to bring about change of policy or practice.

Consumer boycotts are noted by experts as the most common as members of the general public are encouraged to stop purchasing from a targeted company or buy certain products.

We previously had this kind of resolve.

In the 1990s bread boycotts were common and used to hold producers in check. Similar actions were taken against bus transport operators and other goods and services.

Boycotts have a rich pedigree.

Across the world people have been known to embark on such protests, boycotting bread and meat.

Yet an ill-used people like Zimbabweans — exploited, short-changed and cheated — are still to exercise this latent power.

Consumers should rediscover their power!

We would like to commend Government for putting up measures meant to cushion the consumer by opening the floodgates of import to upset the profiteers.

That, of course, is a short-term measure.

The power of the consumer is eternal and Zimbabweans only need to rediscover it.

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