Unethical and unacceptable

Rozario Brown, Mitchell’s Plain

Elected public officials, including Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Legislatures, supposedly represent our interest.

These people must protect and shield us, especially the poor and most vulnerable, against exploitation, high food prices, unfair business practices, against colluding cartels and unscrupulous enterprises.

They need to use their positions in power to legislate against these unfair practices and they need to ensure that those empowered by the constitution of the country, including Chapter 9 institutions, the National Prosecuting Authority, etc, are held accountable when they fail us.

If this is the case, why then are these elected officials turning a blind eye to the sheer profiteering going on in this country?

On a daily basis our poor people are faced with massive price increases on essential goods and services. Municipalities are increasing the cost of water, electricity and other services.

Basic food prices have sky-rocketed over the past few years. A basic food basket in a supermarket could easily set you back R1000.

A trolley-load of food items could set you back more than R3000. Are these people going absolutely crazy?

In the meantime, wages and salaries appear to be increasing way below the inflation rate. Even people whom I considered well-off before, are now complaining about the high prices of basic items in this country.

If we, the people, do not rise up soon and force government to deal with these ungodly people, we’ll have huge problems in this country. These companies are profiteering at the expense of the poor.

Do yourself a favour and read over the last financial statements of Pick * Pay, Shoprite, Spar and other major corporates and retailers. Even after tax, these companies have billions of rands in the bank. Their chief executive officers take home annual salaries ranging between R7 million and R50 million, excluding bonuses and other benefits.

I fully understand the basic principles of business – it is to make a decent profit and to keep the investors happy. However, when it borders on profiteering and making essential items inaccessible for the majority of our people, it becomes profiteering and government must step in. Government’s tardiness in dealing with major corporates in the private sector involved with price fixing, collusion and corruption, is another worrying concern.

The public should closely scrutinise their elected public officials and investigate their roles in supporting some of these retailers who continue to rip off our people. These politicians are shareholders in some of these companies and that is exactly where the problem lies.

This criminal and reckless profiteering, the massive unemployment rate in this country, the huge disparity between the rich and the poor and all the other related issues faced by our people, is a clear recipe for disaster, which could lead to civil unrest.

We can no longer expect the poor majority of this country to hope and pray that prosperity would someday filter through to them too.

I urge government to urgently kick-start a process of meaningful discussions with the private sector, especially those companies dealing in essential food items, communications companies, banks and also government entities, in an effort to bring down these sky-rocketing prices. Failing this, the people should consider going back to the strategies of the 1980s and 1990s and start consumer boycotts of companies and products, which contribute to the demise of our people and our communities.

Consumer boycotts will negatively impact on all our lives, but it will drive down prices, especially on essential goods and services.

Companies will only change their ways once we start hitting them where it hurts.

More letters on facing page