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Zimbabwe Police Keeping Up Pressure On Businesses Over Prices

Zimbabwe's police are continuing a crackdown on business managers whose firms charge more for basic commodities than state price controls permit.

The independent weekly newspaper Financial Gazette reported that two managers of Natfoods company were briefly detained and issued warnings by police and officials from the Ministry of Industry who visited their Bulawayo offices. The newspaper said the latest price control blitz has been code-named "Operation Hurricane."

Police Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said there was no such operation, although efforts are ongoing enforce price controls and keep food on store shelves.

Late last month, two executives of the Lobels food outlet, executive officer Burombo Mudumo and operations manager Lemmy Chikomo, were sentenced to 4 months in jail for charging more for bread than allowed under state price controls.The two men have filed appeals and, pending a decision, been released on Z$20,000 (US$80) bail.

The state introduced price controls four years ago to counter a black market in staple foods such as bread, maize meal and cooking oil. But a loaf of bread in most markets costs betrween Z$600 and Z$700 though its price is officially set at Z$295.

For perspective, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Harare businessman Pattison Sithole, a former president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, who said although the commercial community is in discussions with the government, the business climate is tense and discouraging.

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