By Shingirai Vambe
Hundreds of villagers from Ward 19 under Chief Mapungwana in Chipinge’s Mt Selinda area last Saturday attended a Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority(Potraz) consumer rights awareness campaign organized jointly with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and Consumer Protection Commission (CPC).
The event was held at UCCZ Church, at Beacon Hill.
The campaign was well received by the locals who believe it can help bring lasting solutions to challenges they face when buying goods and accessing services from various providers.
Dr Tafadzwa Mthokozisi Nkosi of the CPC highlighted a number of things happening in the market, prejudicing consumers’ value for their money.
“We have normalized the abnormal by accepting products or services out of desperation. We often complain and ignore, until we get used. Across sectors, be it (ICT) networks, banks or supermarkets, to mention just a few, they have at one point or even now not effectively, efficiently provided the required services or goods and people don’t know where to go.., that’s the reason we are here today, to educate each other on our rights as consumers,” Nkosi told the gathered crowd.
Among the poor services that consumers have accepted, according to Nkosi, are digital connectivity challenges, unfair prices and deceptive promotional activities of goods about to expire and dubious business awards being given to people but without merit.
“We are watching you very closely,” said Nkosi, referring to the business community.
He urged community leaders to create consumer advocacy groups to deal with these common business practices.
With the influx of back yard shops and imported goods, citizens are in most cases given the wrong products, over or undervalued, with the wrong packaging, size or shape. Bank charges, airtime, cost of transacting and the 2% tax were cited as major problems during the event while the refusal to accept soiled and torn notes was also highlighted.
The RBZ said it was illegal for anyone to refuse notes that had all their serial numbers for both the local currency and for US dollars. The US embassy has also issued a statement in the same regard.
“The cost of transacting in local currency is too high with traders exorbitantly charging their goods and services and or refuse accepting our Zimbabwean currency, either through Eco-cash or bank transfer”.
“Often there are times when the networks also fail leaving subscribers and consumers to resort to US dollars as their primary currency of trade,” said ward 19 resident Last Mhlanga.
He further highlighted that in their area, the mobile network they usually get access to is Movetell, a Mozambican network, and in most cases they even travel across the border, Espungabera to buy their domestic goods.
Lekani Mashedze, also from the same ward, told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that the event would help close the information gap between urban and rural communities.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police also came to support, educating villagers on cyber-crime and security. However, a local elderly woman who was at the meeting said police officers had become big criminals and were failing to offer their policing services to the communities they have been deployed to.
Director General for POTRAZ, Dr. Gift Machengete, in a speech read on his behalf by the regulator’s Head of Consumer Affairs, Vengesai Magadzire, said consumers must be protected.
He said there was a need for a concerted effort and collaboration to create an enabling environment for the generality of Zimbabweans adding that such an environment could only be achieved if consumers were protected.
“Working together in collaboration allows for effective protection of consumer rights,” said Magadzire.
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