THE cost of living for consumers in Bulawayo has become more expensive as most businesses are now charging for their goods and services in foreign currency, as the fragile Zimbabwean dollar continues to tumble against major currencies.
However, it has emerged that the government and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) have set up a taskforce to bring businesses and individuals charging for services and goods in foreign currency to book.
A survey by businessdigest this week revealed that most shops in the city centre have priced their goods in South African rands and are refusing to sell their goods and services in the local currency claiming they would make losses if they traded in the local currency.
Basic commodities such as mealie meal, sugar, cooking oil and salt are being sold in South African rands. Landlords have also been renting out their properties for R1 000 or more a month for a house in the low density suburbs of Bulawayo although government has threatened to take stern measures against those charging rentals in foreign currency.
A 20kg bag of mealie meal at the local bus terminals is being sold for R100, cooking oil is being sold for R50 per one litre bottle. A two kilogramme bag of sugar is going for between R30-R50. The sales persons say the prices are negotiable.
The official gazetted price for 20kg of mealie meal is $2 billion and 750ml of cooking oil is $3 billion.
Comfort Machekeza, the regional manager for the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, said that the local currency is still legal tender despite its depreciation in value and also added that it is illegal for business to charge in foreign currency without the necessary permission from the monetary authority. He added that a special taskforce, which is already operational, has been set up together with members from the Zimbabwe Republic Police with the sole purpose of bringing “sanity” back into the economy and warned businesses that they will face steep penalties if convicted.
“The Zimbabwe dollar is still legal tender in this country and it is illegal for business to charge for their goods and services in foreign currency without the permission and clearance from monetary authorities,” said Machekeza. “We have already set up a taskforce which is already operational in order to bring those unscrupulous traders to book.”
In Zimbabwe business owners who are convicted of contravening the Foreign Exchange Act risk having their operating licences revoked or may face incarceration.