- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

HARARE, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe announced yesterday that Zimbabwe is abandoning market-based economic policies and returning to a socialist-style economy.
He declared that businesses opposed to the move should "pack up and go."
Mr. Mugabe said the price freeze on basic foods imposed Friday will be strictly enforced, and the government will seize firms that shut down, withhold their goods or engage in illegal profiteering.
"Let no one on this front expect mercy. The state will take over any businesses that are closed," Mr. Mugabe said. "We will reorganize them with workers and, at last, that socialism we wanted can start again."
Zimbabwe dropped its socialist economic policies a decade after it gained independence in 1980 and embraced Western-style economic reforms.
In recent years, Zimbabwe's economy has become crippled by out-of-control inflation and unemployment, and a crushing shortage of hard currency.
Analysts say the crisis began with the country's expensive military involvement in the Congo war and worsened when ruling party militants began occupying white-owned commercial farms, which generate much of the hard currency in this agriculture-based economy.
Yesterday, Mr. Mugabe offered a challenge to anyone unhappy with the country's new economic direction. "Those tired of doing business here can pack up and go," he said.
Independent economist Howard Sithole said Mr. Mugabe's remarks set "a depressing outlook for private enterprise" in the country.
"We are putting the clock back to shortages and food lines we had in the 1980s. Manufacturers will have to scale down, forget about any new investment at all and hope this is a temporary political measure that can be removed" after presidential elections early next year, he said
On Friday, the government ordered price cuts of 5 percent to 20 percent on corn meal, bread, meat, cooking oil, milk, salt and soap.
Over the weekend, bread, cooking oil and margarine were unobtainable across the country; bread shortages were also experienced in Harare yesterday.
A main bakery chain in Harare said the set prices did not take into account transportation, power and other costs; the chain had put 200 of its workers on shorter working hours as production was cut.
Manufacturers also have been forced to buy imported spare parts and machinery at the unofficial hard currency rate nearly six times the official rate.
Mr. Mugabe defended his government's new policies, saying he was "extremely concerned by pricing mayhem in industry and commerce."
"We are not saying no profit, but they [producers] cannot operate at profiteering levels. Let them also not operate enterprises with political motives," he said.
Ruling-party lawmakers have accused white-owned firms of raising prices in a bid to undermine the government and trigger civil unrest.
Production of tobacco, the main hard-currency earner, and corn have been disrupted by the farm occupations and the government's program to seize more than 4,600 white-owned farms to hand over to landless blacks.

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