By Leopold Munhende
ZIMBABWE’S fast food outlets, including popular Chicken Inn, Chicken Slice and Nando’s, are ripping their customers off by using illegal US dollar to Zimbabwean dollar exchange rates, almost double the official Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) rate.
A snap survey by NewZimbabwe.com indicated these outlets were using rates as high as US$1: ZWL$140 instead of the US$1: ZWL$85 inter-bank rate as expected.
Only Mambos was using a rate close to the official one at US$1: ZWL$86.
As warned by Economists at the introduction of the RBZ rate, Mambos much like most companies hiked the price of its two pieces of chicken and chips from the usual US$3 to US$6,50 to cover losses allegedly anticipated as a result of using the official rate.
Chicken Slice and Chicken Inn, two of the most popular fast food outlets, by reach, were using a US$1: ZWL$140 rate with their two slicer and two piecer both going for US$3.50 or ZWL$490.
Nando’s and Steers were also using the same rate.
New entrants, Chicken Mashwede and Chicken Hotspot have not been left out in the delinquency that attracts a ZWL$50 000 fine as published by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a raft of penalties for companies that refuse payment in the weaker local currency or payment in the local currency at the interbank rate.
On Wednesday Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told parliament his ministry knew there were companies using illegal rates and had already penalised those they have arrested.
“We know some of them but not all of them. Those that we know we have taken action, we have arrested them and we have instituted penalties on that type of behaviour,” said Ncube.
He was responding to questions from MDC Alliance legislator Edwin Mushoriwa why government was not arresting those operating illegally like the above named fast food outlets.
At introduction, government was warned its interbank rate would result in hiking of prices by businesses to cover production costs at a rate sufficient enough to ensure profit.
“We are also of the opinion that the government is punishing the formal economy at large for the sins of the few culprits who could be isolated and dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” said Tafara Mtutu, an Investment Analyst at Morgan and Co.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu said companies were encouraged to use the official rate.
“CZR encourages business especially those accessing foreign currency from the auction market to apply the official rate when pricing goods and services. It is however increasingly becoming difficult to enforce the official exchange rate on business accessing foreign currency from parallel market as rates spike to average USD$1.00 – ZWL155.00.”
Innscor, proprietors of Chicken Inn are on the RBZ’s top 100 beneficiaries of the its foreign currency auction system.