Two businessmen arrested this week by Zimbabwean officials mounting a crackdown on alleged profiteering were liberated on Friday amidst indications that there are deep divisions within the government on how to bring prices under control.
Managing Directors Mike Manga and Ian Kind of Blue Ribbon Industries and National Foods, respectively, were arrested on Thursday and spent the night in cells at the Rhodesville police station in the capital.
Police said the managers had asked Minister of Industry Obert Mpofu to allow them to raise the price of baking flour. Mpofu and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono have urged the police to arrest business people considered to be overcharging and even to shut down business which hardliners accuse of “sabotaging” the economy.
Mpofu told the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce leadership Wednesday that there can be no going back in the clampdown on businesses he claims are inflating prices. ZNCC President Marah Hativagone confirmed the meeting took place and she said the government needed to exercise restraint in the economic crisis.
The arrests of executives has caused consternation at high levels, as certain ministers and ruling party officials have financial interests in some of the targeted firms.
Lawyer Innocent Chagonda, representing Manga and Kind, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his clients were freed on orders from high up.
Sources in the police unit tasked with enforcing price controls say they are obstructed in their work by top officials who own stakes in businesses under surveillance.