Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE National Consumer Rights Association (Nacora) has called for a tripartite dialogue to tackle the recent spate of price increases being fuelled by speculative parallel market exchange rate activity.
Despite warnings and arrests of directors of some top companies over foreign currency manipulation in the past few weeks by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), retailers and many businesses continue pegging Zimbabwe dollar prices of their goods and services to black market exchange rates.
The RBZ has threatened tough action against businesses that obtain foreign currency at the auction system but go on to price their goods and services using the black-market exchange rate.
The parallel market rate is now hovering at around US$1: ZW$160 and above compared to the official rate of US$1: ZW$93,03 as of last week.
In an interview Nacora spokesperson, Mr Effie Ncube, said collective stakeholder effort should help solve the pricing problem.
“The key thing is for us to have all stakeholders in a tripartite negotiation involving the Government, business and consumers so that we find a lasting solution to this problem of pricing in foreign currency and the manipulation of the exchange rate in the streets,” he said.
As consumers, Mr Ncube said they did not believe that businesses will comply to the RBZ directive to stop benchmarking prices using the black-market exchange unless there is an all-stakeholder dialogue and investigation into the issues on the ground.
“We don’t believe in that just by instructing businesses not to do something they will comply but what is important is to have a sustained negotiation between stakeholders, then a solution can be found,” he said.
“As a consumer rights organisation, we are pushing for that meeting, it is a critical meeting because there is no other way to solve that.
“Besides a meeting where people can really put their issues forward, businesses are complaining about accessing foreign currency and consumers are suffering as a result of these multiple exchange rates.”
Mr Ncube said the situation demands that businesses, Government and other stakeholders come together and find each other.
“There is no other alternative besides a sustained dialogue,” he said.
Mr Ncube said Zimbabwe was facing limited access to foreign currency that is required to bring in goods into the country, particularly those that cannot be produced locally or there are production challenges.
He added that the obtaining situation on the market was being exacerbated by some corrupt elements who were taking advantage of the situation to create arbitrage opportunities.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu has confirmed the benchmarking of prices using the parallel market exchange rate but called for dialogue between Government and the private sector.
“The continued foreign currency exchange rate emanates from rising demand for foreign currency by both the businesses that obtain forex from the auction system and those that source from the parallel market,” he said. – @KazungaOliver