Govt loses battle to control prices

Clemence Manyukwe


GOVERNMENT appears to be losing the battle to control prices after the High Court on Wednesday nullified directives on the price of cement, the same day that a magistrate said the Attorney-General’s off

ice was wasting taxpayers’ money by failing to prosecute cases against company executives accused of raising prices illegally.


High Court judge, Justice Bharat Patel, made the order following an application by Circle Cement (Pvt) Ltd, challenging the specifying of cement as a product subject to price controls.


“The control of cement in item 5 of the Fifth schedule as read with Section 7 of the Control of Goods (Price Control) order 2003 (Statutory Instrument 125 of 2003) is hereby declared ultra vires the control of Goods (Price Control) regulations 2001 (Statutory Instrument 334/2001) and is accordingly null and void,” read justice Patel’s judgement.


Through its lawyer, Terrence Hussein, Circle Cement said it has previously been charged on nine occasions with the same offence, but all the matters were withdrawn before plea at the Harare magistrates’ court.


Also on Wednesday, Harare magistrate Priscilla Chigumba acquitted National Foods Ltd, a day after Dairibord Zimbabwe was cleared of the same offence on prices.In her ruling Chigumba said the AG’s office must mount “credible prosecution of these matters, otherwise it is wasting the taxpayer’s money”.


The government is currently divided over the issue of price controls with Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s promise that there would be no more arrests of business executives being ignored.


On Tuesday the director of research and consumer affairs
in the Industry and International Trade ministry Norman Chakanetsa, who is facing allegations of increasing the price of bread without authorisation, appeared in court.


Chakanetsa said Industry and Trade minister Obert Mpofu had given him permission to raise prices. Chakanetsa’s case is continuing in court.


Price control regulations list seven categories of goods that the government can control through the Industry and International Trade ministry.


These are drugs as defined in the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act; fertlisers; foodstuffs and beverages other than alcoholic beverages; food additives, including salt, vegetables and fats; iron and steel and other refined or unrefined mineral raw materials; fuel and soaps.