Zimbabwe has temporarily suspended some provisions of a law prohibiting the importation of goods, saying people with money can now buy restricted items in order to tackle crippling shortages of basic commodities in the country.
Speaking to journalists in Harare soon after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said speculative buying of commodities by members of the public is pushing prices of goods beyond the reach of citizens.
She said Cabinet observed that owing to panic and speculative buying, products which used to be sold over a month are now being sold in just three hours.
Mutsvangwa said this was “completely unsustainable”, adding, “accordingly, as a way forward, Cabinet resolved that the Minister of Industry and Commerce temporarily amends Statutory 122 of 2017 to allow both companies and individuals with offshore funds and free funds to import specified basic commodities in short supply, pending the return to normalcy in buying patterns of the public and adequate restocking by manufacturers.”
The targeted commodities include cooking oil, cement, ice cream, pizza base, potato crisps, sugar, yoghurts, wheat flour, crude soya bean oil, fertilizer, soap, shoe polish, salad creams, synthetic hair products, wheel barrows, stockfeeds, agrochemicals, baked beans, body creams, fats (lard, tallow and dripping, body creams, bottled water, cereals, cheese, coffee creamers, finished steel roofing sheets, jams, juice blends, margarine, mayonnaise, packing materials and peanut butter.
Zimbabwe has been facing critical shortages of bread, sugar, cooking oil and other basic commodities following an announcement by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube that there should be separate bank accounts for the U.S dollars, bond notes and RTGS transactions.
He said this was designed to account for all transactions in the country in order to curb economic decline. But his critics say he sparked price hikes and panic-buying of goods resulting in some commodities vanishing from store shelves.
Ncube has already said the greenback and bond notes are at par.