ZIMBABWE’S biggest supermarkets are losing business to “pavement vendors” who are selling their products at cheaper prices, the consumer watchdog has said.
BY MTHANDZO NYONI
In its monthly update, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said big supermarkets were operating under stiff competition from illegal vendors.
“Supermarkets are facing stiff competition from the evening pavement ‘supermarket’. Many people prefer to buy from pavement vendors whom they feel have (sic) cheaper prices,” CCZ said.
Most consumers in Zimbabwe, as a result of low disposable income and the liquidity crisis, have resorted to buying most of their household commodities from street vendors whose prices are lower than those offered by shops.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Denford Mutashu, confirmed that vendors were giving them headache and called upon government and city authorities to curb the practice.
“The majority of them are not legal and we wonder why the government is letting illegal vendors wantonly operate in undesignated areas. We need order in our cities. If we don’t rein in on that, we will end up seeing people operating from trees,” he said.
Mutashu said the situation was dire, particularly in Harare, adding the streets were impassable from 5pm.
“We are not saying they should be chased away completely, but they should operate in designated areas. The competition is not fair because they don’t pay rentals or anything yet we are paying rentals and taxes,” he said.
He implored the government to look into the matter with urgency before supermarkets collapse.
Mutashu said some of the illegal vendors were selling expired and uncertified products, thereby posing a threat to consumers.
As such, CCZ urged consumers to shop conscientiously and to always buy certified products.
“Where the products are not certified, to exercise their right to information by carefully examining if the products they are purchasing are well-labelled, packaged and provided with vital information such as manufacturing and expiry dates and ingredients used in the make-up of the products,” CCZ said.
However, National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe chairperson, Sten Zvorwadza, said CCZ should condemn government for its failed policies rather than condemning street vendors who are competing for survival with supermarkets.
“It is morally wrong and incorrect for CCZ to point fingers at vendors as people who are a threat to the supermarkets. Instead, they should condemn this government for its failed policies. Vendors and supermarkets are both fighting for survival under this harsh economic condition,” he said.
Zvorwadza said they were about 7,5 million active street vendors, meaning half of the country’s population was on the streets to eke a living.
He said CCZ should stop government and central bank from issuing out bond notes, adding they will force more people onto the streets.
Meanwhile, the cost of living as measured by the CCZ’s low income urban earner monthly basket for a family of six increased by $1,76 to $571,02 by end October 2016.
The food basket decreased by 1,23% to $125,47.