May 19, 2005

Mugabe rejects notorious NGO-bill / New food prices set

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has refused to sign a controversial new law that would have barred foreign rights groups from operating in the country, a newspaper said on Thursday. The NGO Bill, which also outlawed local groups from receiving outside funds, has before met fierce opposition resistance. The Bill had to be signed by the president before it became law. "The NGO Bill was sent to the president for assent and he did not do so because of one or two issues he wanted to be addressed," Minister of Social Welfare Nicholas Goche told the Herald. Which issues he considers worth addressing was not to be found out.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government has fixed new prices on some commodities. Plagued by shortages of basic goods, with mass arrests of black-market traders, long lines for gasoline and stampedes for scarce food like sugar, new prices have been set for cooking oil, sugar, milk, soft drinks, maize seed and cement, the Sunday Mail said. But in several cases the price hikes are minimal, and do not match most of the hikes sought by manufacturers and traders. Supermarket shelves in Zimbabwe have been empty of many essential goods following parliamentary elections at the end of March. The goods have been readily available on the informal market - but at prices up to three times those set by the authorities. Retailers are not allowed to increase prices on goods like sugar and cooking oil without approval from the government.
The government-approved increases which range between 5 and 58 percent are set to exert more pressure on the three-digit rate of inflation which the southern African country has been grappling with in recent years. The new price for sugar is Z$4 000 per kilogram, up from Z$3 682. Supermarkets are now allowed to charge Z$2 500 for a small bottle of soft drink, up from Z$2 000. Inspectors are to be deployed throughout Zimbabwe to enforce the new prices, Christian Katsande, an official from the industry ministry, told the paper. The Sunday Mail said new prices for bread and flour will be announced soon. The most recent hikes, although controlled and still less than what producers had sought, come just days ahead of the announcement of the central bank's much awaited "post-elections and drought mitigating monetary policy" set for Thursday. (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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