Is there a hidden political mission to the price hike madness?


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The old, and wise, always advise adults against joining children in whatever game they would be playing in muddy fields, to demonstrate how good they were at the sport in their prime years. 

This is centred on fears the adult could be tripped or dribbled to the ground by the agile children and then, in anger, unjustly beat them for not observing hierarchical protocols.

Unjustly because a children’s game in the mud, in almost all cases, would be played in strict accordance of their rules – of zero rules.  

For years now, the business sector – particularly manufacturers and retailers – has subtly dubbed in opposition politics, especially on the eve of elections.

This has taken two main forms, withdrawal of products to create artificial shortages, and hiking prices of the limited available supplies to influence voting in upcoming elections.

Often the products are consumer goods in daily demand across the societal board, and the effect is most keenly felt by the common man in the street.

The intention is always to force the man in the street, constituting the biggest voting block, to vote with the stomach, not the head as should be the case.

To deflect attention and suspicion, the business sector would always cite a host of purported fiscal and monetary indiscretion by government, commonly failure to arrest inflation, stabilise volatile exchange rates, and to provide enough forex for key imports.

Wee are in that circle again, and as sure as the sun will rise in the east the next morning, the business sector is at it yet again.

Prices for essential commodities, primarily food, have spiked through the roof, and some supplies are becoming scarcer in the market, as the August polls draw close.

As usual, the business sector is singing the same song – lack of forex, rising inflation and exchange rate instability.

According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), prices of basic goods have shot up sharply since January, ‘coincidentally’ at the time the election season began.

This has only escalated since. Last month alone, according to the consumer watchdog, the price of the staple maize meal went up by 30 percent, that of sugar by 66.94 percent, fresh milk by 61 percent, that of cooking oil by 43.9 percent, bread by 45.9 percent and rice by 51.9 percent.

In tandem, charges for other human necessities such as accommodation, transport and school fees have also shot up considerably, squeezing the man in the street to the brink.

Reflecting the views of wider society, the CCZ believes the price hikes are a result of speculative and forward pricing by the business sector, both unwarranted and damaging to the economy in the long run as it constricts demand. 

Rosemary Mpofu, CCZ executive director: “We see a lot of speculative pricing and forward pricing by industry, and this is not good for consumers, nor the economy. It is simply not sustainable.” 

Concurs the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers: “The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers notes with sadness the rampant speculative and forward pricing taking centre stage on the local market which has massively eroded consumer purchasing power.”

“It has also been noted that some sector players and related economic agents are withdrawing POS (Point of Sale) machines from customers that wish to pay in ZWL and this smacks (of) economic sabotage and the consequences are likely going to be severe if law enforcement pounces on anyone found wanting,” it added.

Even more worrying are indications the peak in the price hikes, if unchecked, is yet to be reached. This, according to observers, would come around the actual polling time.

Continued next page

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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