Government to crackdown on prices – PM

The Herald, May 2, 1982
THE Government is to acquire powers to regulate prices in an effort to check “thieving” businessmen charging people exorbitant prices, the Prime Minister, Mr Mugabe, said yesterday.

The controls would initially be on essential commodities and would later cover items such as clothes, Mr Mugabe said when he addressed workers at a Labour Day rally at Rufaro Stadium.

Mr Mugabe also said there were “many good things” in store for workers following the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Incomes and Prices Policy which he had already received.

He specifically accused butcheries of profiteering, charging that some of them made 100 percent profits on meat they bought from farmers or the Cold Storage Board.

“The Government will look at wages of the worker as well as prices he is charged because at the moment there are a lot of thieving businessmen stealing workers’ salaries by over-charging.”

“You are being cheated on meat particularly. The Government will look at meat prices with a view to making them comfortable for workers and their families,” Mr Mugabe told the crowd.

The Ministry of Information will next week launch an education programme teaching people how to guard against being cheated by butcheries when buying meat.

He said the Government wanted to satisfy two groups in the meat business – the cattle breeder, who should be given good producer prices and the consumer who should be charged reasonably.

“But we say no to the middleman – the butcher – who, just because he has bought fridges, axes and saws, he wants to hike the price of meat. We want meat to be cheaper for the people, middlemen will not have it easy.

“I am not saying we are closing down butcheries because we need them. But we would like you to form people’s consumer co-operatives with a little profit margin to pay workers running them and other expenses.

“At the moment, butchers are making as much as 100 percent profit and we are saying no to this,” he said.

Government was also considering extending free education beyond primary school and extending free health services to those earning above $150.

LESSONS FOR TODAY

Profiteering is a bad business practice that is exercised by greedy business persons and should be nipped in the bud. At the moment, we have people that are manipulating the black market foreign currency rate and shop owners have responded by pegging their prices in local currency against those rates to the detriment of ordinary people.

President Mnangagwa is on record saying that the Government is actively looking into the issue.

In any production process, there is need to deal with the scourge of middlemen to ensure that there is a win-win situation for all. In most cases, especially in the agricultural sector – be it tobacco, cotton, maize – where middlemen are involved, the producers are short-changed to the extent that some fail to return to the fields while the middlemen who would have done nothing reap huge rewards. In the case of cotton, the involvement of middlemen precipitated side marketing which nearly destroyed the whole sector until the Government intervened.

Government should continuously look at legislation such as Consumer Protection Act to ensure that the majority of Zimbabweans are protected from profiteering businesses.

Organisations such as the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe should be given enough teeth to bite and should not be allowed to remain as mere talk shops that they are at the moment.

Under the current scenario there is deafening silence from the CCZ, despite the phenomenal rise in the prices of basic goods and services.

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