Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's
president, has told manufacturers to maintain normal production rates, despite
an official price freeze on basic goods.
Speaking to supporters at a rally in Harare
on Friday, Mugabe warned that the government would seize firms that
stopped producing maize meal, sugar, salt, bread, beef and fuel.
Many of the attendees from the ruling ZANU-PF party had
through the capital earlier in support of the freeze,
which was introduced to curb the world's highest inflation rate of over 4,500
Mugabe's party intends to adopt tougher measures against
firms defying the freeze introduced last week when the government ordered
businesses to return prices to June 18 levels.
The move sparked frenzied buying from shoppers
and was ordered after prices of some goods tripled within a week.
At his party headquarters in Harare,
Mugabe said: “This is no joke … there are some people who think this
[freeze] will not succeed because they say there are empty shelves.
“We are saying to all factory owners you must produce. If you
don't produce we certainly will seize the factories.”
Spiralling prices and soaring inflation are part of an eight-year economic
crisis that has caused foreign currency, fuel and food shortages.
Economists say the price freeze would decimate what remains of Zimbabwe's
struggling industry as manufacturers will not be able to produce goods at a
leader said his government was still not satisfied with current price levels
and he wanted even lower prices to cushion people from inflation.
Mugabe again accused businesses of raising prices as part of a wider plot by
former colonial ruler, to remove him from power and rejected suggestions that
the price freeze was illegal.
He said Zimbabweans should alert a special unit of police, army and
intelligence operatives formed to enforce price controls of businesses hoarding
or unfairly increasing prices.
More than 200 business people, including a Zanu-PF senator, have been
arrested for ignoring the ban on price hikes.
Mugabe supporters had earlier marched from Zanu-PF's Harare
provincial office to its national headquarters where the 83-year-old leader was
to preside over a meeting of the party's powerful central committee.
The central committee meeting on Friday is expected to adopt
tougher measures to crack down on defiant businesses and extend products
covered by the freeze.
The price controls cover basic goods such as maize meal, sugar, salt, bread,
beef, rentals and were on Friday extended to fuel.