Cat & mouse kind of business by wholesalers/retailers-Feature(24-07-07)

THE hype about price reductions being done at gunpoint by the Zanu (PF) regime has been generated mainly by the anxiety shown by Zimbabweans but a survey has shown that retailers and wholesalers are playing a cat and mouse game with the regime.

The nation, suffering under the

yoke of oppression by the Zanu (PF) regime and under a heavy sense of uncertainty, is getting used to spending many hours in long queues not only for basic commodities but also to get simple things such as lotion.

The regime is trying to capitalize on the chaos it has created for political expediency ahead of next year’s elections by spewing propaganda to convince people that the price war is working.

But a survey by CAJ News revealed that prices of goods and commodities that are still available on the official market are being reduced mainly during the presence of members of the crack teams deployed by government to enforce slashes.

It has also emerged that whilst most foodstuffs have run out, retailers and wholesalers have come up with ways of handling the regime regarding other goods such as furniture and electricals.

A visit to furniture and electrical shops in Harare showed that goods have only been reduced by less than 10% in fewer cases whilst at most they are selling at the prices that were there before the price war began.

The shops are also using the tactic of marking the bulk of stock as having been sold and thereby avoiding demands by the crack teams to display price tags.

“These DVD players were costing $6,5 million before the war started and we reduced to $6 million,” Kevin Gakare a shop assistant in central Harare said.

In the same shop 15 out of the 17 television sets in stock were marked as having been sold and Gakare confirmed that was their tactic to avoid problems with the price monitoring teams.

“We are telling them that all these have been sold and are only waiting to be delivered to their buyers and that way we avoid problems with them,” he said.

The same situation applies for clothing retailers visited by CAJ News in Harare. “It is impossible to
reduce these prices by the margins demanded by government because I imported them from abroad using foreign currency purchased at the black market,” an owner of a clothing outlet said from Harare city centre’s Ximex Mall.

“We would rather close shop than donate to the nation as demanded by government.”

A pair of jeans in the clothing shop was selling for $3,5 million, which is above the gross salary for
teachers and nurses in the country.

In the case of foodstuffs, whilst they have disappeared from the official market, the black market
is flooded by sugar, mealie meal, soap and other basic commodities and selling at prices at times ten times higher than those stipulated by government.

Rebranding has also emerged to be one of the ways through which manufacturers are trying to evade the crackdown by government through abandoning the traditionally known brands and repackaging the goods.

Industry and International Trade Minister, Obert Mpofu admitted to CAJ News the tricks being applied by retailers to evade the price reduction campaign.

“It has come to our attention that there are various ways through which businesses are avoiding compliance with government orders and we are impressing upon our teams to look out for them and bring them to book,” Mpofu said.

“These are people who deserve to be arrested and jailed because they are fighting against
the people of this country. We are aware of campaigns by the opposition as well as our detractors to make sure there are shortages of commodities in the country.”

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said the situation was getting worse for the consumer. “The situation is becoming more difficult for the consumer because in addition to shortages of most basic commodities, they have started emerging on the black market and very expensive,” the consumer body said.

The situation is tense across the whole country as Zimbabweans ponder the future with shelves in shops becoming empty on a daily basis and the threats by government to take over business have not been translated into tangible results.

Many workers have been laid off as manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers closed shop during the past two weeks government has been on a warpath over pricing modules-CAJ News.

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