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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 13:44 GMT
Mugabe plans 'sweeping reforms'
Zimbabwean shows new temporary bank notes launched by the central bank, September 2003
The bank has issued temporary bank notes to ease shortages
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe plans to overhaul his cabinet and the central bank in an attempt to rescue the economy, state-run media has said.

Mr Mugabe has said he is worried by the dominance of the black market, the official Herald newspaper reported.

A former BBC Harare correspondent says the remarks are an acknowledgement of the hardships suffered by millions.

Aid agencies estimate more than a third of the population will be unable to feed themselves by the end of the year.

Mr Mugabe told a meeting of his ruling Zanu-PF party that restructuring of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would begin next week "to make it much more of a developmental institution that protects the national interest," the paper reported.

Other government bodies, including the cabinet, would also face reforms, the report said.

'Grief and ruin'

Zimbabwe is struggling to cope with an annual rate of inflation of more than 450%, along with shortages of most essential goods.

On the black market, foreign currency, fuel, and basic goods are selling at much higher levels than those set by the government.

Mr Mugabe said the black market trade threatened to replace the formal business sector, destabilising society and derailing his land redistribution programme.

"The (black market) is run and supported by a mercenary breed of wily and selfish merchants, a breed that neither sows nor sweats, but harvests millions from base speculative activities that have spawned so much grief and ruin for honest citizens," the Herald quoted Mr Mugabe as telling his party.

At the root of the problem lies the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar. The BBC's former Harare correspondent, Grant Ferrett, says the currency crisis was triggered, in part, by the wave of illegal invasions of white-owned farms which began three years ago.

Few people in Zimbabwe expect any real reform, our correspondent says.

President Mugabe gave no timetable for reshuffling the cabinet and little detail of his planned changes.

There was speculation in September that Mr Mugabe was planning a rare reshuffle of his cabinet after some ministers were accused of taking more than one farm under the land reform programme.

Mr Mugabe says he is addressing imbalances in land ownership due to racist colonial-era laws.


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