Zimbabwean industry hoist by own petard

WE welcome the bold decision taken by Cabinet on Tuesday this week for Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu to temporarily amend Statutory Instrument (SI) 122 of 2017 to allow companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import basic commodities that are in short supply on the market.

This should stay until the demon that has besieged the local market — evidenced by hoarding of basic commodities by unscrupulous retailers and consumer panic buying — has been completely exorcised.

We also note that the decision by Cabinet follows a recommendation by Zanu-PF to Government for the removal of SI 122 to address current shortfall in the supply of basic commodities.

The artificial shortages of basic goods have exposed Zimbabweans to abuse by corrupt elements who are profiteering from absurdly high prices.

The move was long overdue.

While SI 122 was enacted to protect the local industry, it is our view that the same industry has not been playing ball.

They claimed capacity utilisation had surged, but their products were absent on the market.

It is pertinent to ask questions as to which market local industry was feeding after getting forex from the Government?

Instead a desperate population has been treated to counter-accusations between manufacturers on the one hand and retailers on the other.

We suspect the same industry Government sought to protect from foreign competition is either feeding the black market with the basic commodities or conniving with retailers to create artificial shortages as a way to increase prices. The signs of connivance are right on the wall.

Industry gets foreign currency from the Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to buy critical raw materials. But after production they feed the black market or overprice their products, claiming they were getting foreign currency on the black market.

It is hard to explain for example how a bottle of cooking oil that used to sell at $3,79 a few weeks ago suddenly was in short supply, but available on the informal market for a princely $10,50. The same applies to other basic commodities.

Others, we are told, got foreign currency and never used it for the intended purpose, but instead traded it directly on the black market. This madness had to be stopped and the decision by Cabinet to amend the SI122 should be a master-stroke.

We are dealing with saboteurs hiding behind the mantra of market forces. Zimbabwe cannot be held to ransom by hustlers purporting to be business people. They are a serious threat to national security. It is our belief that while it is important to ensure that our critical industries are protected from foreign competition, it is not sustainable for Government to forever feed the same with foreign currency.

These are private entities which must be innovative enough to source own foreign currency or generate own raw materials. This business of queuing for foreign currency at RBZ must end and the time is NOW.

We still wonder why, for example, those in the cooking oil industry are not willing to fund farmers to produce soya beans and sun flower — critical raw materials in the production oil.

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