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Zimbabwe Authorities Arrest Hundreds of Bakers, Alleging Price-Gouging

Harare has expanded price-control enforcement efforts against bakers and retailers it says have been overcharging consumers for bread and other essentials, bringing the number of those arrested over the past week week to some 282.

The state-run Herald newspaper reported that fines are being slapped on retailers charging more than the state-approved Z$85,000 for a loaf of bread. But sources said the fines averaged only Z$500,000 - about the cost of four loaves of bread.

Despite the government’s crackdown, transport operators in Bulawayo were said to be planning an increase in their fares to Z$120,000 as of Monday. Only last week the operators raised fares to Z$80,000 from the officially stipulated Z$50,000.

National Bakers Association officials were tight-lipped about their meeting Thursday with authorities on the bread-price issue. But baking industry sources said association officals, who gathered separately later Thursday, were considering legal avenues.

For another perspective on the controversy, Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Consumer Council of Zimbabwe regional manager Comfort Muchekeza why bakers and commuter bus operators are defying Harare.

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