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Zimbabwe President Vows to Enforce Price Freeze - 2001-10-15

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has warned that price freezes imposed last week will be enforced, and says the state will nationalize businesses that closed as a result of the measures.

President Robert Mugabe says any businesses that close due to the price freezes will be nationalized and staffed with workers. The Zimbabwe President said when this happens, in his words, the socialism Zimbabweans had always wanted would start.

Speaking at the funeral of an official of the ruling ZANU-PF party, Mr. Mugabe also said he had had enough of the so-called Economic Structural Adjustment Program, which was introduced at the insistence of the World Bank in 1990. The program was designed to open up the Zimbabwe economy and counter the effects of socialist policies introduced at independence in 1980.

Mr. Mugabe has blamed Zimbabwe's economic ills on the World Bank program, but analysts argue that the country's acute economic crises was initially sparked by Zimbabwe's expensive participation in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The analysts say this was worsened by the widespread invasion of commercial farms under the guise of Mr. Mugabe's land redistribution program.

Production has plummeted on Zimbabwe's commercial farms, which until last year were the source of most of the country's largest foreign currency earnings.

Low foreign currency earnings, coupled with low agriculture production, has in the past two months resulted in skyrocketing prices, especially of basic foodstuffs. Last week, Mr. Mugabe responded by freezing prices which in turn has caused some stores to close their doors.

Mr. Mugabe also sought to blame the British government for the current crises. He said he has been informed by shipping companies that the British government has intercepted and tried to divert consignments of fuel and food destined for Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, the South African Government has put on hold plans to deport about 15,000 illegal Zimbabwean farm workers. In a court ordered agreement, the government has agreed with farmers' unions to renegotiate the fate of the workers.

The unions say many of the workers have been in South Africa for a decade and longer while the government says they are taking jobs from South Africans in an area of high unemployment. The Zimbabwe government had warned it would seize more commercial farms in order to resettle any illegal workers deported from South Africa.