PICS: Why Mugabe's govt wants to arrest 'multi-tier' pricers

2017-03-24 06:06
A man holds bond notes released by the Reserve Bank Of Zimbabwe in Harare central business centre. (File: AFP)

A man holds bond notes released by the Reserve Bank Of Zimbabwe in Harare central business centre. (File: AFP)

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Harare - Cash, card or BOND?

Some retailers in cash-starved Zimbabwe are offering three different prices for goods depending on how customers can pay - and President Robert Mugabe's government isn't happy.

"The last thing we want to do is start arresting people" who use multi-tier pricing in their shops, deputy bank governor Kupukile Mlambo said in quotes carried by the state Herald newspaper on Thursday. 

That should be read as a threat.

The introduction of 'bond notes' - the paper currency that has no value outside Zimbabwe's borders - at the end of November last year may have seen a little more money circulating on the streets and markets of this southern African country. 

But it's not the "real" US dollars that importers need to restock. So in some cases customers are being told to join different till or pump queues - depending on how they pay. Obviously if you have real US dollars to hand over, you're the best kind of customer. 

"i am aware of illegal activities that are happening," Mlambo was quoted as saying. "Some of the retailers have a three-tier pricing system, for bond notes, swiping and US dollars. I want to be very clear about this: it is illegal."

Offering preferential rates for the US over the bond is of course one way of devaluing the "Zimbond". The dizzying hyperinflation of the pre-2009 era is what both Zimbabweans and Mugabe's government are desperate to avoid. But many locals fear that it's inevitable.

"Bond note pump prices higher," journalist @Mathuthu tweeted in a thread about fuel stations charging different prices.

Tweeted @Bushirous next to a picture of a Zimbabwe shop with a sign saying US Dollars Only: "US Dollar and Bond notes will never be equal. Nhamo yatanga muZimbabwe." (It's the start of trouble in Zimbabwe.)

Different tills for different payment methods don't always mean a discount for hard cash payments. Major Zimbabwe supermarket chains don't dare offer three-tier pricing, for example. But what customers are seeing is an uptick in prices - for everyone.

As Zimbabwe "hyperinflation expert" Professor Steve Hanke tweeted last month: "Zim supermarket chains can't charge diff price for bond note vs USD. Result: higher prices for everyone. Bogus 'bollars' ruining economy..."

Zimbabweans have been warned.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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