HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for a crisis meeting with business leaders to try and find a solution to high prices placed on basic commodities which have triggered an outcry from long-suffering consumers.
Mnangagwa, who is largely viewed as pro-business in his approach has, however, ruled out imposing price controls.
Speaking soon after the swearing-in ceremony of the two vice presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi at State House yesterday, Mnangagwa expressed dismay at the shooting prices, but ruled out State regulation saying he was hopeful that alternative solutions to the “price madness’ could still be found.
Although he did not give the date of the meeting electing to say it would be held as soon as possible, Mnangagwa said the decision to engage business was agreed upon between him and Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha at a meeting held on Wednesday.
“We are very concerned as government about the rise of general prices on the market. I had a meeting yesterday (on Wednesday) with the minister of Industry and Commerce, … Bimha to call the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to discuss with them.
“We don’t think it is good to go for legislation to legislate against prices. We need to come to an understanding and have the people in these categories to appreciate where we are coming from, where want to go and they must have a human face.
“They must not be profiteering because in some cases, you find the same item is sold at this price in this shop and the other price in another shop. Why should there be such huge differences of about 15-20 percent for one item? We should interrogate such issues,” Mnangagwa said.
Thousands of consumers endured a bleak Christmas as retailers hiked prices of basic goods during the festive period.
This was despite the fall of foreign currency rates at the parallel market which they had previously cited as the main drivers of price hikes.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Sifelani Jabangwe, recently told the Daily News that local manufacturers had not hiked prices that much — in remarks widely seen as pointing fingers at the retailers.
He said the country’s largest industrial representative group was of the view that prices of imported goods were the ones that have significantly gone up with locally manufactured products remaining with a 20 percent increase margin from comparative prices last year.
Economic analysts are predicting doom and gloom for the consumer unless the authorities adopt stern measures to curb overpricing.
There are fears that Zimbabwe could easily slip into another hyperinflationary era reminiscent of the 2007/09 period when soaring inflation obliterated the Zimbabwe dollar along with its pensions and savings.
To escape hyperinflation which had topped out at 500 billion percent, the country was forced to adopt the United States dollar in 2009, along with Britain’s pound and the South African rand.
But the relative financial stability of the last eight years has unravelled in the last few months as acute foreign exchange shortages have led to sharp price increases.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa said he had picked experienced people for the posts of vice presidents and he would soon demand results from Chiwenga and Mohadi.
“I believe they are very experienced. I will be announcing sometime this afternoon (yesterday afternoon) their assignments,” said Mnangagwa.