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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Mugabe warns of business take-overs
Supermarket shelves
Supermarkets have had empty shelves for months
The Zimbabwe Government will seize the assets of firms, which do not co-operate with the government, President Mugabe has warned.

He accused National Foods, which is partly owned by a subsidiary of the Anglo-American multinational company, of causing a recent shortage of salt by hoarding its supplies.


We cannot afford to sell salt, which is imported, at the controlled price

National Foods spokesman
This was a political ploy to turn "people on the streets against our government", he said according to the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper.

The price of salt is controlled by the government but National Foods says it cannot afford to sell at this price, because it is lower than the cost of importing the salt.

Price controls on other basic foodstuffs were lifted last month.

Zimbabwe was once a bread-basket for the southern African region.

But due to drought, the seizure of white-owned farms and food price controls, it is now dependent on food aid.

Huge losses

"Do they still want to work in partnership [with the government]? If not, we will take over their enterprises", Robert Mugabe told a Zanu-PF meeting over the week-end.

National Foods denies hoarding the salt but says that government price controls are causing huge losses to the company.

President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has accused multinationals of conspiracy

"We cannot afford to sell salt, which is imported, at the controlled price, which is less than half what we paid for it," a National Foods spokesman said, according to the correspondent for the British Daily Telegraph in Harare.

The salt was imported at an exchange rate six times higher than the government's fixed rate, according to the company spokesman.

National Foods says it has been negotiating with the government to find a compromise price at which the salt can be sold without damaging the company.

'Unnecessary suffering'

On Sunday, Zimbabwean state radio reported the president as saying that he would not "tolerate companies bent on causing unnecessary suffering to people by creating unnecessary shortages".

Officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party had found 2,000 metric tons of salt at National Foods warehouses, according to the radio.

National Foods is the largest food production and supply company in Zimbabwe and employs over 4,000 people.

Children queuing for food aid
Millions of Zimbabweans are going hungry

President Mugabe and his party have frequently accused multinational companies, along with the country's white farmers, of being part of a conspiracy against his government and of depriving the country of food.

The Sunday Mail says that the president now says that multinational companies will be asked if they wish to co-operate with the government.

If not, the paper says, the government will take over their enterprises in Zimbabwe and transfer control to local people.

Zimbabwe was once a bread-basket for the southern African region.

But due to drought and the seizure of white-owned farms, it is now dependent on food aid.


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15 May 02 | Africa
09 May 02 | Africa
03 May 02 | Africa
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