Its that time of the year when parents run around trying to find basic school requirements for their children and a survey was made on the current prices of selected items.
According to the survey made by the Herald, school trunks, a basic requirement for pupils starting boarding school, are selling new for $2 000, although it is possible to get a metal worker in the informal sector to produce something cheaper.
Tracksuits are going for $1 200 and blazers $1 006 in major school supply shops. These shops use the same price regardless of the payment system and refuse to accept US dollars, inviting customers to change their money first.
Uniforms for both boys and girls range between $400 and $600 in the same shops.
Custom-made school blazers, however, range between $440 and $484 for EcoCash, and a bit cheaper if the customer has banknotes, or US$20 and US$22 if the customer has foreign currency.
Tracksuits are priced between $300 and $400 (or between US$15 and US$20) in mobile money.
Uniforms for both boys and girls are priced between $300 and $400 in mobile money (US$15 to US$20) when custom-made. The parallel market rate for the US dollar versus mobile money transfer is 1:22 or 1:16 for cash.
However, stationery is cheaper in some shops compared to street stalls.
For example, a two-quire counter book is going for $25,50 in some supermarkets yet on the streets it is pegged at US$2 or equivalent, which could be as high as $44.
In an interview, one parent, who only identified herself as Mai Junior, decried the cost of school requirements in established retail shops saying she was resorting to the informal market for her Form One child’s school trunk.
“How can a school trunk cost $2 000? Where am I supposed to get that kind of money?” she lamented.
“I am actually thinking of going to Mbare to get a customized school trunk because I honestly cannot afford the ones that are being sold in town. I am just an ordinary civil servant.”
Another parent, Mr. Tapiwa Sithole, accused retailers of taking advantage of parents’ desperation since it was the beginning of the year to increase prices.
However, it is generally manufacturers who raise prices. Competition is tight in the retail sector while often there are only two or three manufacturers and sometimes even just one for a particular item.
Another parent, who identified herself as Mai Kudakwashe from Chitungwiza, expressed shock at prices in most shops.
“I am very shocked by the prices that I am seeing in most shops. I failed to get a pair of socks because the price is absurd.
“A pair of socks is going for $74 in a shop, whilst on the streets it’s going for $30 or US$2 so you will find that it is cheaper to get on the streets than shops,” said Mai Kudakwashe.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema said CCZ was conducting investigations on the pricing of back-to-school requirements.
Minister Mathema said retailers should keep back-to-school requirements affordable.
“Everybody in this country should accept Government policies. No one is above the law and it is illegal for shops to demand US dollar payments.
“People should follow the law; we should stop this anarchy and as Government, we will not allow such anarchy,” said Minister Mathema.
He said the Government would deal with headmasters who increase school fees without authorization.
“School heads are busy increasing fees. As Government we are going to deal with all those heads who are going against policy because President Mnangagwa is the one who should approve these fees hike,” he said.
Asked what police were doing about businesspersons who are pricing goods and services in foreign currency, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police needed assistance from the public to act on those breaking the law.
“We continue to urge members of the public to assist us with full information on these businesspersons who continue to break the law so that we act accordingly.
“It has been difficult for us to arrest some of these people because most of them display local currency prices,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said, ZRP, in conjunction with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit, were conducting operations to bring unscrupulous businesspersons to book.