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By Fidelis Munyoro
Consumers have welcomed Government’s intervention to protect them against ever increasing prices of basic goods and have called for stern action against errant businesses bent on manipulating prices.
This follows an announcement at the weekend by Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube that Government was crafting a pricing model aimed at benchmarking most goods especially basic commodities to protect citizens against wanton price increases.
Government also made its intention to ease pressure on hard-pressed consumers clear when it sought to provide some companies with funding to ramp up production of affordable basic commodities that would compete with retailers, most of who are accused of extortionately and speculatively pricing their products.
Consumers who spoke to The Herald yesterday said the Government decision was welcome given the state of the economy and the existence of multiple monopolies and oligopolies which render market forces powerless.
Zvishavane-Runde legislator Cde Cuthbert Mpame said there was need for consumers to be protected.
“Government has a mandate to protect citizens by ensuring that they have access to basic commodities such as food,” he said.
“It is commendable for Government to make provision for vulnerable communities and members of society, while at the same time capacitating production for business.”
Mr Wellington Pasi said Government should punish all those harming public interest in the form of ludicrously high prices.
“Continued funding of these businesses is akin to rewarding criminals for their illegal behaviour,” he said.
“It is better to fund establishment of new and honest businesses rather that to continue giving these economic terrorists more ammunition to exploit the ordinary citizen. A comprehensive assessment of the pricing activities has to be done urgently to punish these culprits.”
A vendor in the city centre, Ms Vimbai Maguraushe, said the prices of basic consumer goods will not stabilise if Government does not intervene.
“We have businesses that are bent on profiteering at the expense of the ordinary citizens who depend on their products,” she said.
“We want the Government to intervene on our side for us to have food on the table.”
A kombi driver only identified as Manyere said as consumers they bore the brunt of the increase in prices of basic commodities and implored authorities to look into their plight.
“It is only the Government that can rescue us from these unbridled businesses that are now wreaking havoc in our lives,” he said.
“We are now being starved. Goods are available, but the prices are beyond our reach.”
Speaking in Bulawayo last week, Minister Ncube said the Government was saddened by the unabated price increases, which continued to erode consumers’ purchasing power.
“It is unfortunate that prices continue to be high and are putting a strain on the purchasing power of most ordinary citizens,” he said.
“I think what we have to do in the end is perhaps publish the prices of similar products in other countries like South Africa because most of the goods seem to be imported, what are they (worth) in rand and we apply the official exchange rate, interbank market, and convert that into RTGS dollars so that we can get a sense of import parity.”
The Government through Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is establishing retail shops to sell basic foodstuffs at affordable prices.
The shops would be competing with private operators that are being accused of profiteering by unjustifiably raising prices of basic foodstuffs beyond reach of the poor.
Under Silo Foods, a commercial division of GMB, at least 121 shops will be stocked with basic foodstuffs. Already, Government has injected $70 million into GMB to enable production of basic goods.
The shops are known as Country Feeds and about 25 are already operational.