Fradreck Gorwe and Kumbirai Tarusarira
Local and foreign shop-owners operating in down-town Harare have been directed to regularise their operations and embrace fair business practices within three months while building owners have been implored not to demand rentals in foreign currency.
Government outlawed the use of foreign currency when transacting, insisting in the use of the Zimbabwean dollars (RTGS dollars notes and coins and mobile money).
There have been allegations that some of the traders have been demanding cash payments and neglecting other legal forms of payment.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) and down-town shop owners had a meeting yesterday where various issues were discussed that entail employee welfare, pricing issues and regularisation of operations.
Briefing the media after the closed meeting, CZR president Denford Mutashu, touched on a number of issues including regularisation of business operations, which the retailers body pledged to assist with.
“Some of the issues that we discussed include the issue of proper conduct, the proper way of conducting a business; the need for players to make sure that they regularise and comply with the laws of the country.
“We also came out with quite a number of challenges that they are facing, which we have taken aboard with a view to try and assist them because immediately we will come up with a programme to help quite a number of them to regularise their activities and ensure that they also operate within the confines of the law.
“The issue of banking, compliance with tax regulations of the country, the issue of shop licencing and quite a number of other issues come in. Of course, what we believe in is from now on we will be working together with all the players there and ensure that we help them to regularise their operations so that the government can also benefit from taxation.
“The welfare of the employees is also of particular concern to us and we will be taking care of that. The issue of banking and the issue of acceptance of mobile money and swiping is also a critical matter that have been discussed,” said Mr Mutashu.
Demand for cash payments by some down-town traders had been said to be compelled by rigid landlords who are still demanding rentals in hard currency.
“Sometimes the demand for cash by the players in that particular area has been exacerbated by the landlord that has not been very flexible, who ordinarily has been demanding payment of rentals in United States dollars even though the country has migrated from the multi-currency regime to the mono-currency system,” he said.
Pricing problems were also blamed on improper distribution patterns by wayward producers and suppliers of goods who often resort to the use of middlemen.
“We are also going to be exploring quite a number of issues that have been raised especially that indicates that there is a miscued distribution pattern that has been created and the creation of middlemen is something that we do not condone in the economy.
“What we are basically requesting to manufacturers and suppliers is for them to supply their goods and services directly to the wholesalers and retailers other than going through a middle man who would then go on and demand for cash payment only from the traders,” he said.
Mr Mutashu expressed great concern with foreign traders in the down-town area whom, however, he also urged to respect the operating regulations of the country, bearing in mind that the sector is a reserved one.
“We accept and certainly continue to invite foreigners to do businesses in the country and ensure that they also follow the laws of the country in their operations. If they wantonly break the law that is when we will have problems.
“So basically what we have indicated is that the retail sector is a reserved sector, it is ordinarily reserved for Zimbabweans, but what we then say is that for those that have got the opportunity to get into the sector to open shops, we will look at how we can help them regularise,” he said.
As part of the resolutions of the closed meeting, down-town shop-owners and CZR agreed on a three-month timeline to regularise operations.
“It is actually very positive that from the meeting we are all in agreement that the issues have got to be addressed and we will actually come up with a timeline, provisionally the three months that have been agreed of a period that the issues will have been handled. The regularisation process has got to start now,” said Mr Mutashu.