Beitbridge residents irked by sharp price hikes
Beitbridge (New Ziana) – Beitbridge residents appealed for government intervention on Wednesday against unscrupulous retailers who have hiked prices of basic commodities this week, taking advantage of the closure of the South African border.
Most Beitbridge residents shop for basics in the South African border town of Musina, but with the closure of the border meant to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, they have been left at the mercy of extortionist local retailers.
Both South Africa and Zimbabwe declared national lockdowns against Covid-19, and mutually agreed to close the border except to commercial traffic.
In Zimbabwe, the lockdown began on Monday last week.
Residents said prices for basic commodities had skyrocketed sharply in the past week, and appealed for government intervention as most were now unable to afford.
For instance, the price for subsidised maize meal officially pegged at $70 had more than doubled in price to $150, putting the staple food out of reach for the majority.
A two liter cooking oil bottle now fetches $120, up from an average price of $85 last week, while sugar has also shot up to $75 for a 2kg pack from around $50. Other commodities that have also gone up include bread, toothpaste and Mazoe orange juice.
“Some days after the lockdown came into effect, I was surprised to walk into retail shops to witness such price increases which are not justified at all,” a resident of Dulibadzimu, the main surburb in the town, said.
“The retailers are taking advantage that we are forced to buy from them as we cannot cross the border and they are making a killing from the unfortunate situation. Something has to be done urgent because we do not have the money to buy expensive goods.”
Several other residents echoed the same sentiments, imploring government to intervene urgently.
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa issued a stern warning to businesses unjustifiably increasing prices and charges frequently to profiteer, taking advantage of the 21-day Covid-19 lockdown which has disrupted some supply chains.
The President said this would not be tolerated, and government could be forced to take drastic action soon if it persisted.
Meanwhile, police in Beitbridge have praised the high level of lockdown compliance by residents in and around the border town.
The police are seen daily patrolling business centres to enforce compliance.
At the usually busy road sides, people tried to set up for business, but were asked to close shop and return to their homes.
The usually busy Lutumba growth point, 20km along the Beitbridge – Masvingo road has become very quiet.
Most traders and those with market stalls have scaled down business and heeded calls to stay at home.