Rip Off South Africa: monopoly capital at the heart of SA’S food industry

Last year, the Competition Commission of South Africa launched an inquiry into the grocery retail sector.

According to the Inquiry’s terms of reference, the Commission is concerned that just four of SA’s largest supermarket chains account for more than 90% of the market.

So strong is Monopoly Capital’s grip on the market, that Christo Wiese, the man behind Shoprite, is one of South Africa’s richest men, with a fortune in excess of ZAR72 billion.

Meanwhile, 14 million South Africans go to bed hungry.

Raids

When the Commission announced their investigation, South Africans were treated to the crocodile tears they have grown accustomed to, with accusations levied by the industry that this was more about politics than protecting consumers.

This week however, the Commission conducted a search and seizure operation on the premises of nine fresh-produce market agents, following preliminary investigations that found that larger players are colluding to hold prices low until smaller players run out of produce, and then sharply increasing the prices.

According to the Commission, 80% of the fresh produce market is controlled by just 30 agents. This practice forces smaller players – often owned by black South Africans, to operate on wafer thin profits.

Meanwhile, the bigger often white owned players such as Botha Roodt, Noordvaal, and Wenpro are left to make the larger profits.

Bold and courageous

Let’s be clear of the consequences: the experts may call it white collar crime. But whatever you call it, it is nonetheless illegal. It is illegal because it rips off consumers, and illegal because it creates an environment in which monopoly capital can thrive at the expense of the majority.

The Commission was therefore bold and indeed courageous to stand up to some of South Africa’s most powerful people.

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