Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
GOVERNMENT is developing a framework for providing basic commodities at fair and affordable prices within the next two months.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already given his blessings to the programme, which is expected to cushion consumers against extortionate and punitive prices. The envisaged programme will begin in rural areas before spreading to urban centres.
Industry and Commerce Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu told our Harare Bureau last week that Government was working on the best possible way of making the project operational.
“We are putting a framework in place where we will be able to assist the public in the access and provision of basic commodities at affordable prices. We want to make this initiative a very successful programme, so we are looking at all angles and strategising how best the programme can be made operational. So it is work in progress and we will be able to give finer details as the programme becomes clearer,” said Minister Ndlovu.
Selected parastatals such as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are reportedly being primed to work in public-private partnerships with business to create a sustainable platform for supplying and retailing the commodities. It is understood that Government will leverage on GMB’s commercial arm — which will be duly capacitated — to guarantee the supply of products such as mealie-meal, rice and flour under the Silo brand. Government tentatively expects the programme to take off by April.
After successfully introducing a mass public transport system through Zupco (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company), which helped tame runway transport fares, Government also intends to act as arbiter in the market by controlling predatory prices by unscrupulous businesses.
“We are going to work with industry, but the programme entails giving them enough support so that the products are readily available and they reach the end-user at affordable prices. Cabinet is worried about the issue of prices and inflation; that is why we are looking at alternative means to protect the consumers and ensure that they do not always have to bear the brunt of an increase in prices.”
The new political administration has become increasingly accommodative to businesses. Last week, firms that were affected during the January 14 to January 16 violent demonstrations begun accessing the $30 million Business Emergency Relief Fund from Government. Through the emergency relief, businesses would receive concessionary loans to help them rebuild and restock. Addressing a Meet the People Rally in Rutenga last weekend, President Mnangagwa said he had given the go-ahead for the basic commodities programme to be implemented.