SOME big supermarkets in Bulawayo are now exclusively charging certain goods and products in foreign currency and using the black-market rate for currency conversions in defiance of Government monetary policy.
Retail outlets such as OK Zimbabwe Limited are now charging selected goods such as quality meats and bread in foreign currency.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited some of the supermarkets and established fresh produce, top quality meat and bread were being exclusively sold in foreign currency.
In interviews, consumers reacted with anger to the extortionate move and slammed the pricing of certain goods exclusively in forex.
“The exchange rate levels being applied in the pricing of basic goods in local currency by some unscrupulous retail players in the country demonstrates greediness. OK Supermarkets are big retailers and if this is how they choose to operate then Government should intervene,” said a consumer who preferred to remain anonymous.
A shop attendant who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, said they were instructed by their employer to harness as much foreign currency as possible by pegging certain basic goods in foreign currency.
“The decision is seemingly meant to discourage the use of local currency, which is legal tender by arm-twisting customers to transact using forex only. This was introduced a few weeks ago and we were not formally told why, but the number of complaints we have received from customers is beyond imagination,” he said.
While at TM Pick n Pay Supermarkets, goods are priced in local currency, there is, however, a public outcry over what clients say is overpricing.
“In as much as they follow stipulated rates, the prices are way beyond our reach. If you calculate the prices, you will discover that they use unofficial rates to come up with their ridiculous prices,” said a consumer.
At Greens supermarket goods are charged in both foreign and local currency.
However, the prices for goods sold in local currency do not reflect on the slip.
Residents have since appealed to the Government to act and bring sanity.
“The situation is beyond redemption and these shops are clearly ripping off citizens. Most people earn the bulk of their salaries in local currency and now we have these shops charging outrageous prices, which is just unacceptable,” said Mr Mike Ndlovu.
Mr Sydney Sibanda concurred: “How then are people supposed to survive? A pensioner does not earn much and we urge Government to take swift action.”
Another consumer who also only identified herself as Miss Ndlovu said: “This is madness at its worst and we are saying Government should move in and stop this madness. It’s high time that we only stick to our local currency because as long as we use this multi-currency system, this madness will continue to haunt us.”
“The rates are going up every day and as citizens, we cannot cope anymore. I can’t even afford to pay rent and school fees at the same time.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Denford Mutashu said the pricing of selected goods in foreign currency is illegal.
“We have a market phenomenon that has to be rectified as it is killing the formal sector. The latest regulated exchange rates are killing the market. It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Mr Mutashu said most suppliers acquired goods in foreign currency and were only trying to maintain stability.
“The informal sector has liquidity whereas the same cannot be said for the formal sector.
“That is why you find that most small retailers peg all their goods and commodities in forex. However, as Zimbabweans we should all adhere to the rules of the Government,” he said.
President Mnangagwa on Tuesday declared during a Zanu-PF Politburo meeting in Harare that price manipulators deserved to be locked up.
“Evil machinations from the country’s detractors to reverse successes registered by the Second Republic through asymmetrical warfare in the form of currency manipulation and price distortions will come to naught with perpetrators being brought to book,” he said.
The country is witnessing wanton price increases, especially following the proclamation of election dates.
With Zanu-PF hot favourite to win the harmonised elections set for 23 August, the country’s detractors have been seeking to manufacture economic chaos in the hope of stirring public anger against the Government — using different forms of media.