Sunday, 12 April 2020

WE WILL NOT BAIL OUT PROFITEERING BUSINESSES : GOVT


GOVERNMENT will not consider applications for financial assistance from businesses that are wantonly increasing prices of commodities and those found guilty of breaching the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown guidelines, a Cabinet minister has revealed.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus that has been declared a global pandemic, Government announced a small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and informal sectors cushioning fund to assist companies incapacitated by the lockdown.

Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni (pictured) said measures would be put in place to ensure businesses with tendencies of profiteering through rampant price hikes will not benefit from the cushioning facility announced by President Mnangagwa recently.

“We are saying all rural and urban retail shops that are fond of wantonly increasing prices of commodities should not bother to apply for the cushioning facility, as their applications will be rejected.

“Even when we start the process of reviving and capacitating small businesses, we will make sure they don’t qualify because of their uncouth tendencies of exploiting our people,” she said.

Over the past two weeks the country has witnessed unprecedented price increases of basic commodities that have kept eroding consumers’ purchasing power.

Recently,  the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers ordered its members to immediately effect a price freeze on all basic commodities to allow consumers to access them at affordable prices during the 21-day lockdown. 

Said Dr Nyoni: “We will only deal with businesses that are complying with the President’s call on lockdown guidelines and those that open shops to serve the public in a proper manner.”

It is an offence in terms of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 to be found breaching the lockdown guidelines.

Dr Nyoni said structures were already in place to identify undeserving applicants.

The funding, whose quantum is yet to be made public, will be administered by the Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare, which is tasked to provide social safety nets to beneficiaries.

National Consumer Rights Association advocacy advisor Mr Effie Ncube said it was prudent for the Government to exclude unethical businesses.

“There is no doubt that since the announcement and commencement of the coronavirus lockdown, businesses have unjustifiably raised prices of basic commodities to ‘punishing’ levels. With these new prices, food has been placed beyond the reach of millions of Zimbabweans. This criminal and unethical conduct requires stiff punishment. We have seen in South Africa, the Competition Commission and Consumer Commission imposing hefty fines on businesses that have increased prices in response to the lockdown,” he said. 

“Government should therefore go beyond denying culprits access to the SMEs cushioning facility. It should protect consumers. It must actually punish and take perpetrators out of business. Government must be robust in its approach and hit hard, not with kid gloves,” he said.

Following the lockdown some retail shops increased the prices of all consumables with a shop (name withheld) demanding ZWL299 for two litres Mazoe and same amount for two litres cooking oil. However, the average prices of these products are ZWL110. Sunday Mail

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