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Honoring Liberation Heroes, Mugabe Vows To Pursue Price Controls

The government of Zimbabwe will press on with its controversial campaign to control or even roll back prices in the face of hyperinflationary pressures, President Robert Mugabe vowed Monday in a speech honoring heroes of the liberation struggle.

Mr. Mugabe also returned to a common theme in rejecting British criticism of the eight-year-old land reform program that most economists agree is the root cause of the country's economic collapse, and proposed business nationalizations

"If indeed we are a sovereign independent nation, we see no reason whatever why our empowerment programs should encounter undeserved opposition as comes from Britain regularly," President Mugabe declared. He denounced the British parliament for debating issues concerning Harare, saying Zimbabwe is a sovereign state.

The president also praised army members for remaining steadfast, despite the outcry, and resisting both internal and external pressure.

Addressing thousands of placard-waving supporters thronging the National Heroes Acre outside Harare to honor casualties and veterans of the liberation war, the 83-year-old leader opened a new front in the government's blitz on prices, announcing that landlords are henceforth forbidden to increase housing or commercial rents.

In language that some analysts concluded Mr. Mugabe intended to appease fellow leaders of the Southern African Development Community, in summit this week, the president denounced political violence and vowed to deal harshly with offenders.

Both factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change boycotted the event, saying the commemoration was tainted by ruling party political manipulation.

Contacted for comment, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he did not care what the opposition has to say about how the government organized Heroes Day.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, said the formation values the sacrifices made by those who fought for national independence, but that the faction believes ZANU-PF is politically abusing that liberation legacy.

Rival faction leader Arthur Mutambara said that although his grouping boycotted the ceremony as well, his party found its roots in the liberation struggle.

Around the country, meanwhile, Zimbabweans struggled to find transport to their holiday destinations – if indeed they could travel at all given fuel shortages.

Many residents of the second largest city Bulawayo, spent the day not at the local Hero’s Acre in Nkulumane, but stranded at the Renkini bus terminal.

Reporter Matsautso Banda, who stopped by the terminal where hundreds milled about in search of transport, said that for many Bulawayans Monday was a just a day off.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...