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don't assert our rights enough" - Interview with Rosemary Siyachitema
Makoni Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
January 12, 2012
Inside/Out with Rosemary Siyahitema
View audio file details
Director of the Consumer
Council of Zimbabwe, Rosemary Siyachitema, has served in administrative
functions with such organisations as the YMCA and the Zimbabwe Council
of Churches. She is an exuberant and vocal advocate for the right
of all people to live in dignity. Ms Siyachitema also serves as
the Board Chairperson for the Non-State Actors Forum.
do you think informs the decision by retailers and service providers
to increase their prices?
I think there are various things. The first is that we are still
in the inflationary mode. I don't think many people have shifted
from that. During that time there are a number of people who benefited,
and enjoyed that time. They never changed much going into the US
dollar era, and some of them are retailers and have known the benefits
of getting these super profits. There is nowhere else in the world
where a dollar is as cheaply regarded as in Zimbabwe. Where else
do you buy bread for a dollar? There are also a lot of excuses such
as the return of duty or high overheads. To some extent these things
are true, but this is not accurately reflected in the price increases.
The other issue
is one of business ethics. We cut corners. We give people the wrong
product. One thing we see is that there are specials. I've
had to take some people to task when you find meat or milk products;
you know those things that would have a negative impact on the consumer
being put on special. What do we call that? That's morally
wrong. I also think that we people who receive goods and services
are not loud enough in complaining about these things. Look at how
we've had to deal with the issue of change. They say the money
is there but they are quibbling over the exchange rate. Yet there
are exchange rates already in place, and then you get little tokens,
people getting sweets. I think the problem is them and also us,
we don't assert our rights enough.
on your site that you are involved in drafting a consumer protection
act. What exactly will it do?
It will lay down the law. The act will look at things like advertising,
how we determine quality, the small print and that kind of thing.
We have put in our two cents worth as regards what we think should
be in it, but we are yet to see the final product. The law will
then allow the commission to take people to court and effect class
action suites. They will also go into the medical field, I don't
know if you know how people are being treated ... or not treated
in hospitals. It will look at unethical business practices. Now
all things can be scrutinised under law, which we could not do before.
In the past we have been using persuasion and sometimes threatening
lack of legislation that regulates or protects the consumer the
reason why the Consumer Council appears to have its hands tied when
Yes certainly. That is our biggest challenge. There is no legal
instrument that compels someone to follow the judgement of our arbitration.
A law will be able to do that. At the end of the day even with a
law, what also needs to be done is to change people's thinking.
So that we are always considering the well- being of the consumer.
The law should be the last resort. We want to make people considerate
about the way they practise on the market. Then it becomes a way
of life rather than a stick to hit people on the head.
do you think about the Buy
I think it's a very noble thing. It can only work if other
fundamentals [are in place]. You can't talk about buy Zimbabwe
without addressing the issue of capacity utilisation. It won't
work if our capacity utilisation can't hit 80. I say it is
good, it can work but there are a lot of things that have to be
sorted out. What I despair most is when I hear about funding going
towards the economy, but capacity utilisation creeps!
can the consumer meet you halfway?
I think before consumers can meet halfway we at the CCZ have a big
job that we need to do and that is consumer education. We just don't
have the capacity, especially when talking about the financial ability
to be able to reach as many people as we can. Currently we work
with urban and maybe peri-urban people. Yet we have a big rural
consumer base out there who is meeting even more problems. Countrywide
we've got 19 staff and some of them are service staff like
secretaries. There is a bigger job to be done in addition to what
we are doing.
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