By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Now that the festive season is upon us, the prevailing shortages of basic commodities and the sky rocketing of prices add up to a gloomy year-end annual break for many.
Most retail outlets in Harare’s CBD are still limiting quantities of basic goods which a customer can buy and this has disadvantaged most people who buy goods to present to their parents and relatives in rural areas during Christman and New Year holidays.
One such disgruntled customer is Talent Madzianike who wants to visit his rural home in Mutoko area and is being forced to look for other customers in the supermarkets to come to his aid so that he can be able to buy more goods above the stipulated units.
“It has been a very difficult season for me compared to past years when I would just get into a shop and buy whatever quantity of goods I could afford but now I have to circumvent by looking for other customers to help me buy more goods as most supermarkets have set a limit on most basic commodities.
“This is going to be a bleak holiday for me in Mutoko because most of these commodities are cheaper and mostly available here in the cities so there is very little to pamper my parents and relatives,” revealed the irate Madzianike.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Denford Mutashu diplomatically allayed fears of shortages assuring that supermarkets are fully stocked up for goods available.
“Retailers and wholesalers are fully stocked on all products that are available,” the CZR president boss assured.
He further urged consumers to price compare for an informed purchase and spend sparingly focusing more on back to school items including uniforms to avoid the January rush.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Roselyn Siyachitema also acknowledged that most shops are fully stocked up but bemoaned the high prices.
“From the observation that we have done most shops are fully stocked up for the festive season but it is the high prices that have been of concern to consumers as most people have less disposable incomes,” bemoaned Siyachitema.
The largest beverage manufacturer Delta is reported to have allayed fears of beer shortages during the festive season but said soft drinks maybe scarce.
The shortage of basic commodities in most retail supermarkets had presented an opportunity for the black market to flourish but vendors who spoke to this paper pointed out that this time around it’s not rosy.
“We thought that now that most basic goods like cooking oil and bathing soap are not found in most supermarkets we would make a killing but this is not the case as most customers are complaining that the prices are ‘outrageous’ which is not the case because we are pegging our prices with the prevailing black market exchange rates of $US and Rands to remain afloat in the business,” confided one street vendor who only identified himself as Freddy.
A 2 litre-cooking oil bottle is selling at US$3 dollars and $9-10 bond notes on the streets while the retail price is around $3-89-$4.00 in all forms of transactions.
This was also echoed by Liberty Makununika a clothing street vendor at formerly Ximex Mall who said this year was the toughest of all for him as most young people who were now shunning boutiques opting to buy from the streets have less income since most of them are ‘money-changers’.
“Most of our clientele are the ‘money-changers’ so the toughening of laws regarding foreign currency exchange has largely affected our business,”cites Makununika.
Long-distance buses are likely to hike transport fares as the fuel crisis continue to prevail.
Long winding queues of all types of motor vehicles have become the order of the day at most service stations as both diesel and petrol are now in constant short supply.
A trip to Mutare is between $7-8 dollars but a conversation with a tout at Fourth Street Bus terminus suggests that this may double or triple in the next coming weeks if the fuel situation goes unabated.
The hiking of long distance travel fares will likely see commuters resorting to unregistered vehicles like the now popular 7-seater Toyota Wish which are plying most highways and have been christened Toyota ‘Witch’ because most of them have killed people in road accidents, says Tafadzwa Goliath who is the president of the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe(PAZ).
The festive season is accustomed with unprecedented spending as people make merry and take time to visit and reunite with relatives and friends especially during Christmas and New Year’s holidays.