MOST grocery shops in Bulawayo’s western suburbs are selling basic commodities at exorbitant prices taking advantage of the lockdown regulations that confine consumers to buy from shops within a 5km radius from their residential areas.
A survey conducted by Chronicle yesterday confirmed that basic commodities were very expensive in shops in western suburbs compared to prices at retail shops in the central business district (CBD) and eastern suburbs.
In some cases, the shops in the western suburbs are charging more for those using electronic payment such as Ecocash and swipe.
A 2kg packet of sugar is selling for up to $95 in some shops in the western suburbs compared to $70 or less in the CBD while a 2-litre bottle of cooking oil is selling for $180 compared to $140 in the CBD.
A 2kg packet of flour is selling for $105 in the western suburbs yet it’s going for $80 or less in the CBD.
Most shops in the western suburbs are selling a 2kg packet of rice for $100 while the same packet is selling for $90 or less in the CBD.
Residents said the exorbitant prices in their areas were forcing them to buy from town thereby violating lockdown regulations.
Mrs Sizalobuhle Tembo from Nkulumane suburb said the price madness at local shops was forcing her to walk to Nkulumane Shopping Mall where prices were cheaper.
“Prices of basic commodities are very outrageous here. A 2 litre of cooking oil is selling for nearly $200 yet in some big retail shops it is far less than that.
“How do we observe lockdown regulations when we are being fleeced by shops taking advantage of this 5km radius regulation? To make matters worse we are being charged more for Ecocash or swipe,” said Ms Tembo.
She said Government should seriously consider introducing price controls during the lockdown to protect consumers.
Mr Ndumiso Nyoni from the same suburb said what the local shops were doing was tantamount to fleecing consumers.
“What is the justification for such pricing. It is as if these guys want us to suffer. We know there is a national lockdown and this is the time we expect shops to be reasonable given that many people are not reporting for work,” said Mr Nyoni.
He said the conduct by some local shop owners can fuel criminal behaviour.
Another resident Mr Collen Dube from Nketa 8 suburb said Government should act on the errant shops.
“Their prices are just too high and because of the lockdown we have nowhere else to go. Some of the shops do not accept EcoCash or swipe and those that accept charge more,” said Mr Dube.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Matabeleland regional manager Mr Comfort Muchekeza said his organisation has noted with concern the unjust pricing of basic commodities by shops in the western suburbs.
“We are trying to engage stakeholders including Government over the exorbitant prices of basic commodities charged by these shops,” he said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association (CZRA) president Mr Denford Mutashu said it was expected that prices of commodities in smaller shops are more expensive compared to prices of big retail shops.
He said the smaller shops do not enjoy the same privileges of getting products directly from manufacturers.
“They buy from wholesalers and they also have to factor in transport costs but the margins should not be too high,” said Mr Mutashu.
He said it was unacceptable for shops to reject electronic payments as manufacturers were accepting all modes of payments.
Mr Mutashu said given the challenges of the national lockdown, manufacturers should consider delivering their products to small shops in the western suburbs to reduce the cost of the products to consumers.