As I pen this piece, Malawi is among countries in the world that have recorded a number of Covid-19 cases caused by the coronavirus. Of course, there are so many people in the country and outside who believe we might have more numbers but haven’t been identified yet. Well, I don’t know about that. I am just grateful to God that we don’t have gigantic numbers.
I am glad that unlike several weeks ago, now we seem a bit more prepared for positive Covid-19 cases. Already we have received a donation of thousands of test kits from China’s founder of Alibaba.com, Jack Ma.
City councils have also stepped up precautionary measures with Lilongwe City Council taking lead by ordering a ban on wedding receptions and football matches. There are now hand washing stations at the entrance of almost every office, shop and prayer house. Generally speaking, people in the main cities are aware of what to do to prevent coronavirus infection.
Of course, we are doing very poorly on social distancing. It is interesting how everyone seems flexible to wash hands several times within an hour but we are very rigid when it comes to keeping some sanitised distance between each other. This is something we need to learn and get used to quickly because it is an important weapon in the arsenal for fighting this notorious virus.
I would also like to applaud, first the Malawians who blew the whistle on the selfish pharmacies who in the past hiked the prices of essential coronavirus prevention materials such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. And a big hand to the Competitions and Fair Trade Commission (CFTC) whom after receiving complaints, they swiftly acted by issuing a stern warning.
While I applaud the CFTC’s for stepping in quickly by warning these thieving pharmacies, I have a few issues with the commission’s approach in dealing with this kind of heartless capitalism. I have problems accepting that having learned about the malpractice, the commission had given these pharmacies one more week to reduce their prices. How about asking them to reduce immediately?
The way I understand it, these unscrupulous pharmacists had been allowed to exploit us for seven more days before CFTC punishes them. Is the commission not aware that these people had already been pocketing unfair profits for weeks? Good justice would have been making them pay a fine equal to the profits they have made from the exorbitant prices.
I honestly feel that these pharmacies were handled with kid gloves. I mean these people raised prices by up to 400 percent! A 50 milli liter bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer, which is a high-end hygiene product because of the brand, costs not more than K3, 000, yet there was a pharmacy in Blantyre that had been selling the product at K12, 000.
How the owners of these pharmacies sleep peacefully at night I do not know, but this exploitative business practice is wrong and sinful (Proverbs 11:1). In a crisis like this, you do not take advantage of people. I urge the CFTC to revisit its approach in dealing with those who flout fair trading rules. There should not be a grace period for thieves.
Marcus Muhariwa is a trained journalist and communications professional. He has a passion for writing on social issues.