People shopping for Easter holidays at a local supermarket yesterday, due to lack of money at the banks and with many swiping machines not working people are in for a gloomy Easter this season…

Government is presently developing the framework for providing basic commodities at fair and affordable prices within the next two months.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already given his blessings to the programme, which is expected to cushion consumers against extortionate and punitive prices.

The envisaged programme will begin in rural areas before spreading to urban centres.

Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told The Sunday Mail last week that Government is working on the best possible way of making the project operational.

“We are putting a framework in place where we will be able to assist the public in the access and provision of basic commodities at affordable prices. We want to make this initiative a very successful programme, so we are looking at all angles and strategising how best the programme can be made operational. So it is work in progress and we will be able to give finer details as the programme becomes clearer,” said Minister Ndlovu.

Selected parastatals such as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are reportedly being primed to work in public-private partnerships with business to create a sustainable platform for supplying and retailing the commodities.

It is understood that Government will leverage on GMB’s commercial arm– which will be duly capacitated – to guarantee the supply of products such as mealie-meal, rice and flour under the Silo brand.

Government tentatively expects the programme to take off by April.

Minister Ndlovu said: “In terms of the actual timeframe, it is still early to tell, but we are trying to coordinate the core activities that we need to take part in and the main players that we need to work with. I can say maybe in two months we will be done, but it could even be earlier than that, so I don’t want to give a specific date.”

After successfully introducing a mass public transport system through Zupco (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company), which helped tame runway transport fares, Government also intends to act as arbiter in the market by controlling predatory prices by unscrupulous businesses.

“We are going to work with industry, but the programme entails giving them enough support so that the products are readily available and they reach the end-user at affordable prices.

“Cabinet is worried about the issue of prices and inflation; that is why we are looking at alternative means to protect the consumers and ensure that they do not always have to bear the brunt of an increase in prices.”

The new political administration has become increasingly accommodative to businesses.

Last week, firms that were affected during the January 14 to January 16 violent demonstrations begun accessing the $30 million Business Emergency Relief Fund from Government.

Through the emergency relief, businesses would receive concessionary loans to help them rebuild and restock.

“Cabinet approved the fund, which is known as the Business Emergency Relief Fund. Business that suffered losses in the violent incidents will receive loans at very low rates of 2 percent to 4 percent. The loans also cover those that not only want to restock or rebuild their businesses, but also those who seek to buy new equipment that might have been lost during those disturbances.”

Addressing a Meet the People Rally in Rutenga last weekend, President Mnangagwa said he had given the go-ahead for the basic commodities programme to be implemented.

“We are aware that some basic commodities have gone up in recent times and we are going to make interventions that protect the general public. Very soon, we are going to launch a programme for the provision of basic commodities at reasonable prices. The days of wantonly raising prices will become a thing of the past once this programme is in place,” the President said.

Over the past few months, prices of basic goods have shot up, and in most cases the inflationary adjustments were considered to be unjustified.

Last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube declared war on inflation, saying Government planned to bring it down to single-digit levels by year-end.Sunday Mail