HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday rejected criticism of his economic policies and called for a revolutionary spirit of self-sacrifice to be rekindled among Zimbabweans, but he also said that officials were reviewing price cuts blamed for making life extremely difficult.
Mugabe said a government edict on June 26 to slash the prices of all goods and services - which has left shelves bare of staple foods throughout the country - was intended to halt exploitation by businesses.
But last week the government raised the prices of some goods and doubled the price of beef to restore supplies. Retailers had complained they could not keep shelves stocked if they were forced to sell food for less than they paid for it.
"We are accused of bringing hunger to our people," Mugabe said during the annual holiday honouring fallen independence fighters.
"When we assert our sovereignty, they say we are out of touch with reality. The government is very clear about its programmes. We run things our own way." Mugabe said those who died fighting for independence from British colonial rule in 1980 had been unflinching in their belief in freedom from exploitation.
"We should pause and reflect on the supreme sacrifices made by our selfless fighters. We pray those acts and spirit of dedication be rekindled in us," Mugabe said.
Zimbabwe's official inflation is given as 4500percent, the highest in the world, though independent estimates put it closer to 9000 percent. Meat and many other goods are sold on the black market at up to five times the government's fixed price.
At least 7000 executives, business managers, traders and bus drivers have been arrested in the price clampdown since June 26.
Corn meal, meat, bread, milk and other staples have disappeared from stores. Beer, cigarettes and newspapers were the latest items almost unobtainable yesterday.
Acute petrol shortages have crippled transport services and stranded tens of thousands of travellers hoping to visit rural families across Zimbabwe over the Heroes and Defense Forces holidays.
Today also celebrates the defence capability of the nation's military, which is commanded by many former guerrillas. - Sapa-AP