Industry minister blasts retailers

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INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza yesterday warned retailers engaging in conditional selling of subsidised roller meal that the recently-enacted Consumer Protection Act will ensure the perpetrators are brought to book.
Nzenza said this during a business breakfast forum jointly organised by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) — publishers of the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday — to discuss what the recently promulgated Consumer Protection Act means for consumers.
“The government recently introduced a subsidy in order for the consumers to access roller meal at an affordable price. The 10kg roller meal bag must cost $50, but most times people are forced to buy other items to purchase the bag of roller meal.
“That is conditional selling and it is not correct. The Consumer Protection Act will address this illegal activity and ensure that consumers are aware of their rights and they get what they deserve,” Nzenza said.
She added that businesses must operate in a humane way as it is people around the business who make it profitable.
“Grain millers are our friends. We are working together to ensure that in this difficult economy people get subsidised products which they can afford. The business community needs to complement us and this can only be done through a humane spirit-hunhu,” Nzenza said.
She added that the successful implementation of the Act will require collaboration from all sectors locally and internationally and that the government is committed to ameliorate the plight of consumers.
“The Consumer Protection Act outlines the fundamental consumer rights to include consumer education, right to fair value, good quality and safety of goods and services, right to choose, select suppliers, cancel a reservation, right to cooling off period after direct marketing, right to disclosure, right to noticeable language.
“An important aspect of the Act is that it provides redress to the consumer when a violation of consumer rights occurs and it also speaks to liability for damages caused by goods,” Nzenza said.
This comes as reports indicate that there is a shortage of subsidised roller meal in the formal market while it is readily available on the black market at high prices. This has prompted the government to establish a taskforce to ensure transparent and equitable distribution of the product.
Late last year, the government announced that it had removed subsidies on maize and other small grains, which immediately resulted in the skyrocketing of maize-meal prices.
In response, the government entered into an agreement with grain millers and introduced a targeted subsidy on roller meal which saw the retail price of the product dropping to $50 per 10kg.
Industrialist Kumbirai Katsande, however, said the government might need to consider using vouchers instead of the contested subsidy system, which has left consumers stranded.
“The subsidised roller meal is being sold at an equivalent of US$2 in Zimbabwe and it’s very scarce It is being found in large quantities in countries like Zambia and South Africa and is being sold at an equivalent of US$4.
So if you want roller meal you will find it across the border. What I would suggest as a solution to this problem is that let’s have targeted mechanisms for effective protection of the poor whether it’s through vouchers or something like that,” Katsande said.

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