February 13, 2004

Cabinet reshuffled / Inflation reaches new high

President Mugabe has dropped a couple of political associates from his government in a cabinet reshuffle, resulting in changes in various ministries and Government departments, with one minister losing his job. In a long-awaited reshuffle announced on state radio, Mugabe axed Edward Chindori-Chininga, the mines minister, and replaced Herbert Murerwa, the finance minister, with Chris Kuruneri, the deputy. However, the president retained his ministerial team - which he called "the war cabinet" a year ago - largely intact, including the combative trio of Joseph Made, the agriculture minister, Jonathan Moyo, the information minister, and Patrick Chinamasa the justice minister. In addition, Mugabe also appointed John Nkomo, the veteran politician, as special affairs minister in charge of lands, land reform and resettlement. In a reshuffle coinciding with a government drive against corruption in the public and private sector, Mugabe also appointed Didymus Mutasa, the former parliament speaker, as special minister in charge of anti-corruption and anti-monopolies programme.

Meanwhile new figures of the country's economy have been published. According to government statistics Zimbabwe's official rate of inflation, which dropped 20.8 points in December, came in at a new high of 622.8 percent in January compared with the year earlier. The Central Statistical Office (CSO) figures showed that the rate of inflation jumped 24.1 points from 598.7 percent in December. In November, inflation had stood at 619.5 percent. The rate remains one of the highest in the world, translating to almost three times the January 2003 rate of 208.1 percent. Former Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa in November predicted the southern African country's inflation rate would hit 700 percent in the first three months of this year before climbing down. Central bank governor Gideon Gono in December said measures would be put in place to bring down inflation to below 200 percent by end of this year. Zimbabwe's average annual inflation has been climbing upwards since 2000 when it stood at 55.9 percent, rising to 71 percent a year later. It reached 133.2 in 2002 before it shot to 365 percent last year. (The Herald, Harare/SABC News/AFP)

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