Kick out foreign retailers: Lobby group

HARARE - A coalition of local businesspeople has formed a union to fight against foreign-owned retailers which they accuse of rejecting locally produced goods.

The Businessdaily yesterday gathered that 36 local manufacturers and farmers, led by Gladman Investments — a packaging firm — were mobilising government to “kick out” the foreign retailers.

“These firms (foreign retailers) are only promoting the South African agenda.

“They do not take on board locally produced goods, locals want our products and we can service the local market,” said Killian Bedzi, chairperson of the lobby group, Action Against Sabotage in the Retail Sector (AASRS).

“All we are asking is for government to put in place legislation to close the retail sector to these retailers,” said Bedzi.

“We know government will support us in line with the indigenisation policy,” Bedzi boasted.

AASRS was formed by locals after the continued rejection of locally produced goods, particularly by the new South African player Pick n Pay.

AASRS concerns also come on the back of Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa slamming the opening up of the retail sector to foreign players.

Chinamasa accused Pick n Pay of implementing South Africa’s “export strategy” by stocking its shelves in Zimbabwe with South-African manufactured goods only.

 Pick n Pay ventured into Zimbabwe’s retail sector through an investment in Meikles-owned TM Supermarkets, in which it now controls 49 percent.

South Africa and Zimbabwe recorded R19,2 billion in trade last year, largely as a result of Zimbabwe’s overreliance on the country’s manufactured goods.

Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector is battling liquidity challenges and power among other challenges that have resulted in capacity utilisation dropping to below 44 percent.

The first Pick n Pay-branded store opened in Harare in July.

President Robert Mugabe, who is spearheading the country’s controversial indigenisation policy, which compels foreign-owned companies to cede 51 percent shareholding to locals, has also accused SA of imposing trade restrictions on Zimbabwean goods.

“Our quarrel with SA at the moment is that they just want to turn us into a market,” Mugabe said at the recently held indigenisation conference.

“So we also want them to be consumers, so that they get our products from here, and not block our products, which is what is happening.

“Products from us are blocked here and there.” Chinamasa said the change should be brought immediately if locals are to be economically empowered, adding that foreign direct investment and economic freedom are not mutually exclusive.

“There is need to immediately phase out these investors and show them sectors that will benefit from their assistance because the relationship must be mutually beneficial, not the current fleecing situation,” said Chinamasa.

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