There has always been this trust between sellers and buyers that when you walk into a shop and buy, say 2kg of sugar, you are really getting 2kgs of sugar. Well it turns out as the economy burns some Zimbabwean traders, even registered companies have started abusing this trust by selling undeweight products that they mislabel as the real deal.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s Trade Measures Department made some random visits to various retailers and the results? They netted 16 registered companies in their blitz. These 16 companies were selling underweight products that ranged from meat, bread and even mealie-meal.

One milling company in Harare and six other manufacturing firms and butcheries arrested in Mutare are now facing prosecution.

The other nine companies have since been served with written contravention letters which may result in the imposition of fines or warning.

If our assessment of the remaining cases points to serious acts of criminality, the companies may also end up in court.

Trade Measures Board (TMB) chairperson Mathew Ranganai speaking to the Herald.

While it’s easy to forgive bakeries as they rarely measure their loaves to make sure they are at least 700g, for some of these sellers it was a case of deliberate fraud. Most of them used skewed and miscalibrated scales that gave bogus readings and cheated their customers.

A widespread practice on the informal market

This practice is so lucrative and widespread, unscrupulous traders have used it since ancient times. In fact even the Bible chirps in on the issue:

You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.

Leviticus 19v35

This method is widespread among informal traders. For example kapenta traders have a habit of selling “50g” packets of kapenta that are actually half the size of the purported weight. While this is all illegal, informal traders often get away with it because most customers have no way of verifying the actual weight of products.