EDITORIAL COMMENT: Profiteering retail shops must be whipped into line

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday deplored profiteering tendencies by retailers that are randomly hiking prices of basic commodities. In his closing remarks at the Zanu-PF Extraordinary Congress, Cde Mnangagwa said retailers should have the people at heart in their conduct of business. “I exhort all retailers and service providers to desist from wantonly increasing prices,” said Cde Mnangagwa.

A survey conducted in Bulawayo recently confirmed that most retailers and wholesalers had increased prices of basic commodities despite the fact that manufacturers of these products have not increased prices. What is clear is that these retailers and wholesalers are just after profiteering.

What has worsened the plight of consumers is that some of the retailers are not accepting swipe, Ecocash and telegraphic bank transfers yet Government is encouraging the use of plastic money.

The country is facing a critical shortage of cash and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has said the solution to the cash crisis is for people to embrace the use of plastic money. The retail shops that are refusing the use of plastic money and demanding cash are therefore going against the grain and must urgently be whipped into line.

What is even more frightening is the fact that some shops are not just demanding cash but are demanding to be paid in United States dollars yet Government adopted the use of different currencies in 2009 and also introduced bond notes. The shops that are demanding cash payments are hiding behind shortage of swipe machines but the truth is that most of these shops never applied for the machines.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries who are the manufacturers of most basic commodities whose prices have been increased, have said they have not increased prices and as such the increases are not justified. Some pharmacies have also joined the bandwagon and increased drug prices by up to 70 percent and some of them are also demanding payment in United States dollars.

According to the Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) most pharmacies have increased the prices of drugs by between 30 and 70 percent. Some pharmacies are charging huge shortfalls while some are insisting on cash payments in US$. The other pharmacies are rejecting Medical Aid cards and are also refusing bond notes as well as payment through swipe or Ecocash.

The unscrupulous businesses that are fleecing consumers by charging exorbitant prices, are taking advantage of the fact that no action is being taken against them. These unethical businesses have realised that Government just makes empty threats. It is the consumers that continue to suffer while the retailers and wholesalers make super profits from charging exorbitant prices.

What businesses should appreciate is that Government expects them to uphold business ethics. We want to once again appeal to the business community to be sensitive to the plight of consumers most of whom cannot afford basics. The economic challenges the country is facing demands businesses that uphold business ethics and value their consumers who give them business.

It is also time measures are put in place to stop this price hikes madness.

Article Source: The Chronicle