Consumer rights group speaks tough on price increases

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By Staff Reporter

Mutare: A consumer rights lobbyist has warned businesses against hiking prices of basic commodities insisting his organisation shall not hesitate to push for the withdrawal of business licences of those who have made lives difficult for ordinary people through continued prices increases.

At a stakeholders meeting in Mutare recently, Philip Bvumbe, who is Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) national chair, said a lot of families in Mutare were now surviving on a single meal per day as they could no longer afford skyrocketing prices.

“In Mutare, we normally get reports, people are surviving on one meal a day,” Bvumbe said.

“We are saying the dignity of our people depends on good corporate citizens.

“As retailers, millers you have an onerous role to ensure the ordinary and vulnerable persons are protected,” said Bvumbe.

The meeting was also attended by Confederation Retailers of Zimbabwe as well as the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) representatives.

He added, “We have seen a negative trend in the pricing of basic commodities by our wholesalers and retailers in the country.

“We have come to interact with you, to tell you that you must be responsible and not let government introduce price controls which are dire to your businesses.

“We have been called a toothless bulldog but by the way things are happening you will soon call us an effective consumer bulldog.”

Bvumbe said the consumer watch dog was pushing for a social contract by government, retailers and consumers to avoid price distortions in order to restore the dignity of vulnerable consumers.

“We have activated a call to monitor the 16 ring fenced basic commodities which include salt, floor, mealie meal and sugar against malpractices and price distortions.

“The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), Grain Millers Associations of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) will deploy monitors to ascertain economic saboteurs,” said Bvumbe of a group that has since been deployed,

He said consumers must be able to police the monitored basic products which will have a pricing template.

“The devised mechanism of monitoring the prices of basic products will go a long way in restoring best practices of doing business in Zimbabwe. We are not creating a corrupt environment for politicians.

“We are not politicians; neither are we doing this for politics.

‘We are doing this for peace and stability. We have discovered that the politics of the stomach is what is pushing such initiatives and we don’t want politicians to believe that we are doing this for them.

“We don’t want them to think it is an opportunity for them to manipulate the process” said Bvumbe

GMAZ Vice chairperson Chipo Nheta said the monitoring mechanism was not an attempt to lobby for price controls.

“We are not lobbying for price controls, we are trying to instil discipline in pricing modalities because the way prices have been going up since October this year has been astronomical.

“So we agreed as manufacturers and retailers to charge prices based on specific cost margins that avoid overpricing the consumers,” Nheta said.