Farirai Machivenyika Mr Speaker Sir
The recent warning by the Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC) that it may soon be forced to take action against manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers who are colluding to fix prices of commodities to kill off competition is more than welcome.
Mr Speaker Sir, despite differences in scale of operations, cost structure, overheads among others, most prices of basic commodities seem to be the same. This is enough evidence that there is collusion in the market meant to profiteer at the expense of the suffering masses whose incomes have been stagnant for years.
Mr Speaker Sir, the rise in prices since October last year, has seriously eroded people’s incomes to a point that what they paid beginning of 2017 is effectively double what they are paying now in real terms. It is because of this that the statement by the CTC could not have come at a better time. A number of cartels have been formed and this has fuelled speculations, profiteering all to the detriment of the consumer.
While price controls are undesirable, Mr Speaker Sir, those found to take advantage of ordinary people to enrich themselves should be penalised or have their operating licences cancelled.
Government has prioritised economic development and this means everyone should play their part. So while Government creates an enabling environment for business to operate in, it is also important that business returns the favour by operating ethically.
Government has already said it will not resort to price controls; so that positive assurance should not be abused through arbitrary price increases. One area, Mr Speaker Sir, that Government should look into is the pricing of school uniforms and stationery. Some of the requirements being demanded by schools are out of this world and one wonders whether these school authorities appreciate the world we live in.
Most parents resorted to borrowing to ensure their children returned to school and can’t afford outlandish extra demands which have educational content in them. Mr Speaker Sir, education should not be a privilege, but a right and there is need for Government to ensure that schools do not make demands that leave parents and guardians bankrupt.
There is an emerging trend where schools, even publicly-owned ones, are creating an environment meant to drive away the generality of the people. This should be nipped in the bud so that education is accessible to all despite status in society. Government recently announced that children below five years and those above 65 would be treated for free at public hospitals and Mr Speaker Sir, we believe that such interventions should be made in the education sector to ensure that basic education is accessed by all as required by the country’s Constitution. Government should look at crafting regulations for the sector as it has become lucrative for most people that are taking advantage of the need for education.
Mr Speaker Sir, the signing into law of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Act by President Mnangagwa puts paid allegations in some quarters that Government is not willing to operationalise the Commission. As a country we have had problems in the past that unscrupulous political parties and non-governmental organisations had sought to politicise for their selfish ends.
Mr Speaker Sir, now that the Commission has been legally constituted it should now carry out its mandate without fear or favour or being swayed by political considerations. There are a lot of political forces interested in the work of the Commission and because of that the body has to be vigilant that its work is not usurped by politicians and interest groups.
We have already seen in the past how some groups have tried to use past disturbances in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces to make political capital and the Commission should guard against this.
As we conclude this week’s instalment, Mr Speaker Sir, the reappointment of Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri has sent positive signals to the market on Government’s commitment in the fight against corruption and general misuse of resources in the public sector. It is not in dispute that Mrs Chiri has done a tremendous job especially in bringing audited accounts of ministries and parastatals and other State enterprises up to date and at the same time exposing malpractices.
Given the thrust by Government to fight corruption, there is need for continuity in that important office. It is welcome that Mrs Chiri has been given another term and our hope is that Government will start taking her reports seriously and take action where necessary. One major weakness, Mr Speaker Sir, that critics have pointed out is the failure by Government to take remedial action against those implicated in abuse of office and other vices from previous reports that she has published.
We hope that parliamentarians will take advantage of the new dispensation to do their job and ensure that ministers are taken to task over the implementation of recommendations made in the audit reports. This will go a long way in restoring the confidence that the country needs to attract investors as part of efforts to turn around the economy. Mr Speaker Sir, it cannot be overemphasised that we need to tackle corruption head on if we are to prosper as a nation.