Haarare | Retail giants in Harare have reportedly resorted to banning customers from taking pictures of commodity prices and some shoppers have been forced to delete photos of prices.
The retailers’ stance comes amid fears of a government crackdown on businesses over ever rising prices.
Government has accused businesses of distorting prices and fuelling inflation, while the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has frozen bank accounts of at least 12 suppliers and retailers who were allegedly rejecting payments in local currency and manipulating the official exchange rate.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday this week also said businesses which were distorting prices would be “brought to book”, days after threatening to withdraw licences of businesses which were hiking prices.
Social media has been awash with pictures of high commodity price rags as consumers shared their shock over the rising prices. One price tag which dropped jaws was of a loaf of bread going for $12 000.
NewsDay Weekender yesterday witnessed some shoppers being ordered to delete pictures they had taken in one of the leading retail shops in Harare.
Most retailers have pegged prices in United States dollars, while others have deactivated the point-of-sale machines as a strategy to reject the local currency.
The Zimbabwe dollar was yesterday officially trading at $6 713, according to the results of the RBZ’s weekly foreign exchange auction. On the parallel market, it was exchanging at $10 000 to the greenback.
Addressing a Zanu PF politburo meeting earlier this week, Mnangagwa described business people who were hiking prices as “detractors” who were sabotaging him ahead of the August 23 elections
“As we convene today and focus on the elections, the usual machinations and heinous acts of our country’s detractors to reverse our development agenda are glaring,” he said.
“This is evidenced by their antics and asymmetrical warfare tactics, which include the attack on our currency and the wanton increase in prices of basic commodities. Vakanyangira yaona (we are fully aware). They will never succeed and perpetrators are being brought to book.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said, while he was not aware of the retailers’ decision to block shoppers from taking photos in their shops, “formal retail is currently struggling as the exchange rate situation and challenges created by excessive money supply and other policy missteps are now being shoved back at business door steps”.
Economist Gift Mugano said it was now too late for government to liberalise the foreign exchange rate.
“In fact, liberalising the exchange rate when both exchange rates and inflation are boiling is as good as putting paraffin on fire,” Mugano said.
“What should we do now to save the Zimbabwe dollar? Seri kweguva hakuna munamato (It’s now too late). There is no way one can come with drugs to save a dead horse. The only option remaining is to bury it and deal with its ghost in the form of the US dollar.”