Govt acts on errant businesses

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Harare (New Ziana) – There is no law that permits retailers to sell goods strictly in foreign currency, as such tough action will be meted against those refusing the local currency as a form of payment for particular goods, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Tuesday.

He said this after it emerged on Monday that goods such as Mazowe orange crush juice were now being sold in USD only, according to images that were circulating on social media.

The development drew an immediate response from government which withdrew a special import rebate it had extended to Schweppes’ Beitbridge Juicing for the import of oranges and other raw materials.

Ncube said while the law permits the use of foreign currencies to settle dues, it was unlawful for retailers to refuse other currencies.

“We never gave anyone express permission to sell their specific goods in USD, they are breaking the law and they should stop it forthwith,” he said.

“I am quite aware that some retailers are putting up stickers to say this product can only be bought in USD, I want to make it clear and categorical that this is totally unacceptable, as government we will not allow that. We will withdraw licences and already we have withdrawn the duty rebate licences for companies that have been doing this.

“We took action yesterday, we will not allow this to happen because they are breaking the law, the law says that anyone approaching a shop should be able to offer a currency of their choice and those currencies, within the multi-currency regime should be accepted so we cannot tolerate this kind of nonsense, absolutely not.”

Ncube decried the unethical behavior exhibited by some local companies.

“One of the companies that has been displaying these notices was given a duty-free certificate because they claimed that there were not enough oranges and whatever else they need to make their juices, so in the spirit of making sure that we do not run out of some of these critical supplies we allowed them to bring in these raw materials duty free.”

Besides undermining government efforts to stabilise the economy, the move by businesses to demand foreign currency for goods also smacks of a propensity to profiteer because they get their foreign currency from the weekly auction conducted by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

On top of that, several measures have been put into effect by government to cushion both businesses and citizens from the effects of global market factors such as the impact of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.

One such initiative, Ncube said, was the total removal of the levy on diesel while that on petrol was reduced to US4.7 cents, a development which stopped fuel prices from breaching the US$2 mark.

Ncube also castigated an attempt by grain millers to increase the price bread flour by an aggregate 10 percent on account of exchange rate movements and fuel price increases among other factors.

This, was expected to immediately impact on the prices of bread.

But Ncube expressed dismay at this position arguing that the government action on fuel was sufficient to keep prices down.

“I hasten to say that while we know that fuel prices generally have been on the upward trend, I do not know why on this occasion this organisation has increased bread flour right now because government is doing everything to curb sharp increases in fuel prices,” he said.

“I would like to know what on this occasion triggered it (the latest increase) because I have not seen very sharp increases in fuel prices.”
New Ziana

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