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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Bread, net disasters hit Zimbabwe
Loaf of bread in empty trolley
Some shops have reversed the price rises
Shops in the Zimbabwe capital Harare are running short of bread after three top food-makers were arrested for over-charging for their products.

Prices of bread and other staple foods are controlled by the government and bakers say the official price does not even meet production costs.

In another sign of Zimbabwe's economic meltdown, its main internet connection has been shut because of unpaid debts.

One internet provider said the closure was "catastrophic".

Journalist Brian Hungwe says that in Harare some shops have already run out of bread, although some stores still have supplies.

The AFP news agency reports that some shops have got extra supplies of rolls and scones, as their prices are not controlled.

'Collapse'

The executives, one from a major Zimbabwean bread-maker, were arrested at the weekend.

Bread prices rose last week to 330 Zimbabwe dollars (US$1.32) a loaf, while the official price remains Z$200.

ZIMBABWE CRISIS
Life expectancy 30 years
High dependency on food aid
20% adult HIV prevalence
Shortages of basic foodstuffs
High unemployment
Inflation 1,200%

Three more top businessmen have also been arrested on similar charges, reports the state-owned Herald newspaper.

"We have charged them with increasing prices without authority from the Ministry of Industry and International Trade and we expect them to appear in court tomorrow," Chief Insp Phiri said.

The Herald also reports that some shops have reversed their prices rises.

Zimbabwe's annual inflation is running at 1,200% - the highest rate in the world.

The bakers said last week that their costs had risen by up to 289% in the month of June alone.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Internet Service Providers Association (Zispa) said that e-mail traffic and web use was down by 90% after the main satellite internet connection run by the state-owned TelOne was closed over a debt of $700,000.

TelOne says it is waiting for the foreign currency to pay the bill from Zimbabwe's central bank.

"This is catastrophic as all legal Internet Service Providers utilize TelOne for their outgoing bandwidth to the World Wide Web as well as for e-mail traffic. In short, this... is causing an almost collapse of the Internet in Zimbabwe," said Mweb, the country's biggest provider.

Earlier this year, Zimbabwe knocked three zeros off the denomination of its banknotes in an effort to contain inflation.

The opposition says President Robert Mugabe has destroyed one of Africa's most developed economies through his policies.

He blames the problems on a western plot to remove him from power.


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