Sunday Mail Reporter
Government will continue assessing the cost of basic goods as some retailers have failed to heed a directive to revert to price levels that existed as at March 25, just before the coronavirus national lockdown.
Last week, business organisations including retailers and producers met Vice President Kembo Mohadi and assured Government they were committed to implementing a price moratorium. However, a snap survey by The Sunday Mail yesterday revealed that the bulk of shops in Harare had not heeded the call.
In an interview, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said two teams from her ministry and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe were assessing the price situation with a view to announcing the next course of action.
“We agreed in good faith with the businesses that during the lockdown prices should come down to March 25 levels,” she said.
“We reached this understanding in order to protect the consumer while also taking in the views of the retailers and manufacturers.
“We have a taskforce from our ministry as well as another team from the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and these are on the ground to monitor what is happening in the shops. When they are done with the monitoring, we will then make an assessment of their reports before announcing the next steps.”
Asked if Government would take punitive action against the defiant businesses, Dr Nzenza said: “I have made an assessment myself and what I have observed is that some of the businesses have heeded the call, but others have not. So these issues need to be interrogated.
“The decision we made was based on dialogue and it was an agreement that we expect them to implement. All we can do is to wait for the results of the reports.”
Dr Nzenza said her Ministry had also listened to concerns raised by businesses, including challenges in accessing foreign currency.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said retailers were committed to the agreement they entered with the Government, but added that the changeover to old prices was being hampered by logistical and supply challenges.
“Our expectation is that prices will begin to slide this coming week as supply would have improved. For now we can assure the public that prices will not increase from where they are as we finalise the reduction aspect of the moratorium,” he said.
“We still have supply challenges on some of the key products like the subsidised mealie-meal, cooking oil and sugar. Most shops have run out of these and the expectation is that suppliers will deliver new stocks with reduced prices next (this) week. We are ready to implement the moratorium as soon as we receive supplies.”
Mr Mutashu said retailers were also putting together a self-monitoring mechanism and a committee to enforce the initiative which will be fully constituted this week.
Speaking after the meeting with various business leaders last week, Vice President Mohadi said the two parties had mutually agreed that prices of basic commodities would revert to the March 25 levels when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe fixed the interbank exchange rate at $25 to US$1 for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency.
“There was a general agreement among the multi-sectoral partners that the price increase, particularly during the lockdown, was speculative and unjustified,” said the Vice President.