It’s all about getting even
THE National Incomes and Pricing Commission evidently believes that by holding down the cover price of the Zimbabwe Independent it has contained inflation. This week it directed that we should peg our price at $150 000
Sadly economics is rarely that simple. Imported fuel is the main driver of inflation. It tracks the US dollar. There has been no attempt by government to control this and other inputs used in the newspaper business such as newsprint, film, plates and inks.
Zimbabwe is not a self-sufficient economy as it was at Independence in 1980. It does not manufacture everything. We have to pay the market price for what we consume.
The state media by contrast is heavily subsidised. It gets cheap fuel for distributing its newspapers. It also enjoys a monopoly of state institutional support. Parastatal advertisers are required to advertise in its columns. So on national occasions are the army, air force, police, prison service and parliament, among others.
The independent press receives no such support. We operate as a business and like every other business in this dysfunctional state we have to operate in the real world of 14 800% inflation.
Critically, not only is the business playing field tilted against us, we have to deal with the depredations of a regime that sees the private media as “the enemy”.
NIPC chair Godwills Masimirembwa has advertised his hostile view of the Independent in his weekly Herald column. It is therefore hardly surprising he will use his current post to get even with the newspaper.
“You must read my column to see what I think about you,” he told one of our reporters seeking an interview recently.
And, just as the Media and Information Commission was set up to punish the independent press, so the NIPC will be used to silence an inconvenient critic.
Government will use the commission to do what Masimirembwa’s turgid column can’t — close us down.
For, make no mistake, that is the intention here. If a company cannot recover the cost of production it will go under.
Masimirembwa says his price edicts will have a life of three months. That’s in contrast to everything else in Zimbabwe which has a price-life of 24 hours! As it stands our newly designated price of $150 000 is less than a Freezit. It is the same as a bread roll or an egg. A toilet roll is $1 million.
This is what happens when ruling party politicians, backed by the police, attempt to prescribe how businesses should operate. And then the government hopes in all seriousness to attract investors.
What sort of government is it that wastes its time and public funds determining the price of newspapers?
The NIPC project, like all the others before it, will fail. Very simply price controls have not worked wherever they have been tried, including in this country.
Can anyone recall the litany of alphabet agencies over the past 10 years and anything they achieved?
Another price “blitz” is about to be launched and this too will compound the nation’s problems rather than solve them.
In the meantime, and so long as it has breath, the Independent will continue to expose the ignorance and plain stupidity of a regime that long ago lost the plot.
That is our duty: to provide the public with news and views that will enable them to make an informed choice at the polls. And that of course is precisely what our enemies want to prevent.