Godfrey Marawanyika/Roadwin Chirara
THE Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI)’s highest decision-making body, the National Council, on Tuesday met to debate the contentious decision by government
to reverse price increases for basic commodities.
The National Council is composed of the country’s captains of industry.
Prices shot up by as much as 100% after the March 31 parliamentary election in which Zanu PF defeated the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The government swiftly moved in, ordering businesses to reverse the increases, which it claimed were politically-motivated and meant to sabotage the economy by the ruling party’s enemies.
The order to reverse the price increases in turn resulted in shortages of the same commodities.
Industry officials said the shortages are not artificial as alleged by government, arguing that production is declining largely because of unrealistic pricing structures.
Goods such as the staple maize-meal, sugar and cooking oil have disappeared from most shop shelves in Harare.
Maize-meal supplies have been erratic in the country in recent months with supermarkets out of stocks for days on end and long queues quickly forming where the commodity is available.
CZI president Pattison Sithole confirmed the meeting but refused to disclose details or their recommendations to government.
“The decision by the CZI National Council was that we will be taking the issue of price controls and shortages to the minister,” Sithole said.
“We also agreed that we cannot say anything about the meeting to the press, so I cannot say anything.”
Of concern to government is the fact that price hikes could trigger inflationary pressures.
Currently, Zimbabwe’s inflation is at 123,7% with the central bank having set a target of between 30-50% by year-end.
At its peak the country’s inflation reached 622,8% in January last year.
Industry and Trade minister Samuel Mumbengegwi on Tuesday could not be drawn into commenting on the issue of price controls.
“There is nothing I can say on the issue as there is bound to be a new minister soon. So why should I comment on something that can be changed by someone new when the appointments are made?” Mumbengegwi said.
“Maybe talk to Mr (Kenneth) Manyonda.”
Manyonda, the deputy minister, could not be reached for comment this week.