BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Industry and Commerce minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu on Wednesday warned industry that the incessant hikes in prices of basic commodities will push long-suffering Zimbabweans to revolt.
The warning came as the consumer rights watchdog was calling on government to convene an urgent cost-of-living forum that would bring together business and consumers, among other stakeholders, in order to arrest the runaway prices.
Zimbabweans are being subjected to regular price increases, usually tracking the exchange rate between the United States dollar and the real time gross settlement dollar on the black market, which currently stands at 1:4.3. In the past week alone, prices of some basic commodities rose by as much as 75%.
Ndlovu told a Bulawayo provincial investment conference at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre that business should exercise caution.
“They are pushing consumers to revolt… We want to have candid discussions around this issue, which is killing our economy,” Ndlovu said.
Business cited an unstable exchange rate between the United States dollar and the RTGS dollar for the recent price hikes, but the Industry minister argued otherwise.
“I don’t know whether our economy is a foreign exchange market or what, but this does not make sense,” Ndlovu said.
Speaking to Southern Eye, National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) advocacy and campaign adviser Effie Ncube urged all stakeholders to convene a cost-of-living forum to address the crisis before the situation got out of hand.
“This rise in the cost of living cuts a deep wound in the lives of people, harming the young and old, employed and unemployed, in a profound way, even for people accustomed to pain in recent years,” Ncube said yesterday.
“We call upon the government to urgently convene a cost-of-living forum in which government, business and workers and consumers will be represented. It must be remembered that not all consumers are workers, so the unemployed consumer must have a seat at the table as well,” he added.
“Appropriate steps should be taken to cushion consumers, both employed and unemployed, from the unrelenting rise in the cost of basic commodities upon which day-to-day life depends. The forum must address the real root causes of the unabated rise in the cost of living.”
Ndlovu said there was need to avoid the recurrence of the January protests against steep fuel price hikes, which resulted in security forces killing 18 and injuring nearly 200, according to human rights groups.