HARARE – The embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has on Monday condemned businesses that are bent on derailing economic gains through unexplained price increases and profiteering.
Addressing thousands of party loyalists who welcomed him at Harare International Airport after his visit to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, the Mugabe implored the people not to worry as the government will soon resolve the issue of wanton price increases of basic commodities.
He said the issue could have arisen as a result of what he called elements colluding with those who are bent on discrediting his party party Zanu PF in the face of the coming 2018 elections.
“There are people who want things to be bad in the country so that the people will demonstrate against us. The people are however now aware of such moves and can no longer be swayed do easily. I am back and will look into the matter. Be it fuel or cooking oil shortages, that is not a problem we are unable to address,” said Mugabe.
He urged Zimbabweans to remain united and preserve peace ahead of the 2018 elections.
The government of Zimbabwe has blamed social media activists for creating panic buying over the weekend against a backdrop of surging commodity prices and fuel shortages.
Zimbabwe’s The Standard newspaper reported that Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya was forced to assure the country that there would be no shortage of basic commodities as Harare residents moved to stock up amid fears of further loss of bond notes’ value.
He charged that the panic buying that resulted in empty shelves at supermarkets in the capital was being fuelled by “fake news” on social media.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe wishes to advise the public that social media messages that are circulating and suggesting that there are going to be shortages of basic commodities in Zimbabwe are false and malicious‚” the newspaper quoted Mangudya as saying in a statement.
“These messages are meant to cause anxiety‚ panic‚ alarm and despondency to the unsuspecting and peace-loving members of the public‚” he added.
The statement did little however to stem the rush to buy commodities that left supermarket shelves empty.
Most people don’t have ready cash‚ so they buy commodities using credit cards. Most traders import products from South Africa but‚ as they are not getting foreign currency from the central bank to restock‚ they are forced to buy hard currencies on the street.
To cushion themselves against burgeoning costs‚ shop owners are forced to increase prices. “We are buying these goods even at increased prices because there will come a time when there will be nothing to buy locally just like 10 years ago‚” said a woman who had an assortment of goods such as washing soap‚ mealie meal and cooking oil.
On Sunday‚ after a church service‚ #thisflag pastor Evan Mawarire was taken into police custody for posting a video on his Facebook live feed criticising Zimbabwe’s deteriorating economy.
Mugabe also spoke about his address at the UNGA about how the United States is opposed to other countries making or owning nuclear weapons yet Washington’s itself owns and has used them on other nations.
He also spoke against the bully behaviour of the US President Donald Trump at the gathering where he condemned Venezuela, DPRK and Iran, saying all countries rich and poor, big or small have equal rights and a right to self determination as enshrined in the UN Charter.
Mugabe and his delegation to New York were welcomed on arrival by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and several government officials.
Mugabe’s return coincided with a sudden price hike of basic foods and fuel.