BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

THE Zimbabwe Cross-Border Traders Association (ZCBTA) has urged the government to instil discipline in the retail sector and remove cartels that continue manipulating prices, prejudicing consumers in the process.

In a statement yesterday, the association’s secretary-general Augustine Tawanda said the exchange rate volatility was being driven by corporate indiscipline.

Tawanda said the journey towards price reduction and stability was being thwarted by greediness and primitive capital accumulation in some circles as the consuming public continues to suffer from overpricing, profiteering, and extortion by some players in the retail sector.

“ZCBTA is concerned that those entrusted to protect the public in this regard are notably absent or not visible at all. The authorities allow monopolies and cartels to continue to manipulate prices unchecked,” he said.

“The current lawlessness and madness in the retail sector cannot be allowed to continue as it negatively impacts on the lives of ordinary citizens,” Tawanda said.

He added that it was disturbing to note that many shops continue to demonetise the $2 and $5 denominations by refusing to accept them as legal tender and where these are accepted, a huge premium is charged using the parallel exchange rate, thereby costing the consumer an arm and a leg.

“The ZCBTA also notes with regret failure by most retail outlets to display prices of goods in both United States dollars and the local currency using the prevailing auction rate as required by Statutory Instrument 185 of 2020,” he said.

The central bank recently issued a statement, directing providers of goods and services to display, quote or offer prices for such goods and services in Zimbabwe dollar and foreign currency at the ruling market exchange rate as determined by the foreign exchange auction.

But some business entities have not complied with the moral suasion directive.

“We are also calling upon monetary authorities to increase circulation of higher denominations notes to improve portability and also consider reintroduction of ATMs to reduce congestion in banking halls.”

The ZCBTA boss implored the government to complement price stabilisation initiatives introduced by monetary authorities by enforcing “discipline and compliance and advocate for the stringent deployment of inspectors and law enforcement agencies throughout the country to stem out this rot”.

“It is also important for the government to ensure that cross border traders are given facilities to consolidate their consignments. This will help to fight this over-pricing and profiteering by cartels because through cost cutting measures, they can afford to sell goods at lower prices than currently prevailing,” he said.

The move, Tawanda said, would also ensure the restoration of livelihoods of mainly women traders while at the same time providing the much-needed competitiveness in the pricing matrix.

Given that over 300 000 cross-border traders have lost sources of livelihood as a result of the devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic, the government should open up space for traders to conduct safe and monitored activities within the confines of the law, he said.

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw