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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Mass Zimbabwe arrests over prices
Policeman watches queue for sugar
When police enforce price controls, shoppers flock to buy bargains
A total of 1,328 Zimbabwean businessmen and women have been arrested and fined for breaking official price controls in the past two weeks, police say.

The government ordered that the prices of many goods be cut in half, in order to tackle the world's highest rate of inflation - more than 3,700%.

But businesses say the new prices are below cost, so some firms have closed.

Zimbabwe's neighbours are trying to work on a plan to revive the economy - once one of Africa's most advanced.

A South African newspaper reported on Sunday that this could include pegging the Zimbabwe dollar to the South African rand but this has not been confirmed.

'Police hotlines'

Officials have been visiting shops and businesses to ensure they are respecting the new prices.

We will sustain this operation at all costs to make sure at the end of it there is sanity in the business sector
Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka

But this has led to panic buying and goods running short, when the prices are reduced.

Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka told the state-owned Herald newspaper that some businesses were raising prices again, as soon as the officials left.

"We urge consumers to report such cases, using our police hotlines," he said.

"We will sustain this operation at all costs to make sure at the end of it there is sanity in the business sector," he said.

Those arrested and fined include workers from most of Zimbabwe's top firms, across the country.

Shoppers pass empty supermarket shelves
The price controls have led to empty shelves
One businessmen was arrested transporting a tonne of sugar to rural areas, The Herald reports.

Supt Mandipaka said 33 top executives were in custody and would be taken to court shortly.

One Harare resident told the BBC that a single banana now cost more than she had paid for her four-bedroom house in 2000.

The government has accused businessmen of deliberately raising prices in order to cause unrest and bring down President Robert Mugabe.

Most economists say Mr Mugabe's policies are to blame for ruining the economy.

It has been suggested that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) could offer to help Zimbabwe's economy in exchange for political reforms.

The MDC and western observers say previous elections have been rigged.

Empty shelves in Zimbabwean supermarkets

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