The Pirates and the Party
About two weeks ago Mr. Mugabe made a speech at the funeral of a
died under mysterious circumstances and in it he attacked the private
for raising prices in the name of regime change. He threatened the
companies as well as everyone else and said that if they did not come
line with what the Party wanted they would be taken over.
Since then a shadowy, totally unaccountable organisation known as the
Operational Command' has taken up the call and last week they
senior business leaders to a meeting and instructed them to roll back
prices to the level they were at on the 18th June. The meeting was held
the Commanders of the Army, the Police, the CIO, Air Force and the
Since then all major retailers and wholesalers as well as the majority
manufacturers have reduced their prices to the June 18th level.
prices were doubling on a weekly basis at the time with inflation about
000 percent per annum. So these price reductions were major and across
Last weekend the smaller retailers were attacked - I am not sure we
really call it anything else. One by one they were approached by small
groups of officials, police and militia. The messages were confused and
varied from store to store and group-to-group. Some simply said they
reduce a limited range of 18 items to the price levels listed, others
it was the roll back to June 18th while others simply said cut your
by 50 per cent.
No opposition or arguments were tolerated. If the retailers resisted
were arrested and taken to local police stations. In other cases stores
were closed had their doors smashed open and prices reduced under
supervision and then the public allowed in, buying the goods at the
prices. Many businesses were faced with near riots as people scrambled
goods. In other cases the authorities confiscated goods, especially
they found goods stored behind shops.
Then they started on the fuel stations - systematically all stations
fuels were visited and if they had stocks they were told to sell at
a litre or else. One operator in Bulawayo refused, was arrested and
when his lawyers intervened, rearrested and taken to see the senior
in Bulawayo who told him no resistance would be tolerated and they then
the police to force him to open up and sell. He lost Z$3 400 000 000 in
hours on 47 000 litres of fuel bought at Z$132 000 a litre. Today there
long queues at all filling stations still with stocks. I project by
that there will be no fuel at all in the City, probably in the whole
country. Worse still the fuel importers have stopped buying foreign
and halted imports. It will take weeks to get back to 'normal'.
The butchers were simply told to sell 'meat' at Z$90 000 a kilogram
some cases Z$120 000 a kilogram - there was no explanation of the
difference. Since the cost of beef is well above these levels, they
sold out and then closed. Today there is no butchery open in the entire
City. Bakers are following suit - they were told to sell at Z$22 000
and they did so but stopped buying raw materials. Today bakers are
closing down across the country.
In the milling industry 'controlled' prices are half the real cost
production and the national staple food, maize meal, has disappeared
the stores. The prices of other carbohydrate foods such as potatoes
doubled. Rice is controlled down to half its cost and will also be in
supply by next week as stocks run out.
If supermarkets are unable to restock because either they cannot buy
products at controlled prices and sell them for a margin to cover other
costs, or the products are just not available, then all basic needs
start to run out next week. For some mysterious reason one product was
specifically targeted - Mazoe Orange Juice. Its price was set at
for two litres and when all the dust had settled the manufacturers were
given an approved price of Z$180 000 per unit. So if you were to buy this
product today you would have to sell it at a loss. Sugar sales from the
mills in the Lowveld are Z$15 000 a kilogram - the retail price is
A mark up of 13 per cent - the fuel on collection of this product
Chiredzi is Z$7 300 per kilogram alone.
This morning we watched a police raid on a small 'Spaza' store run
single women who has a teenage son. A 7 tonne truck arrived with four
on board, they collected all her stocks and loaded them and then
to appear at the police station at 14.00 hrs. The police officer in
was Inspector Banda, force number 048168 F.
There she was harangued and fined Z$40 000. Her goods were offloaded
large warehouse that was full of confiscated goods. While we watched a
well-dressed man in a new vehicle, number 807 516 J drove up and helped
himself to 4 bags of sugar. He did not sign a receipt and drove away.
vehicle was a make that is driven by senior police and army officers.
While we followed this small saga being played out, we saw truckloads
police coming and going and more goods confiscated from small informal
traders all over the City coming in. Its quite clear, the Party wants
show that inflation can be beaten and they are making the business
pay the price. The people carrying out these illegal and irresponsible
orders are rewarded for their diligence with authority to loot the
they are raiding. Since the big boys in this game can defend
is the small people and the informal sector that suffers most. So much
Zanu PF socialism, or as Mugabe would put it, his personal brand of
As one man said to me on the street, 'Well Eddie, at least now you
do not need to campaign for MDC in March, these people are doing it for
you.' He may be right but how on earth do we get there!
Bulawayo, 5th July 2007