The announcement came as troops with orders to shoot to kill restored some order in the capital, Harare. It was just the latest crisis management solution from a president desperately trying to prevent his 18-year-rule from unravelling.
The measure, however, looks likely to buy the President little, if any, time. Last night there were reports that, despite the presence of the army, riots were continuing in Harare's poorest townships and had spread to other cities including Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare.
Though new conditions on World Bank and European Union loans appear to have scuppered Mr Mugabe's plans to seize, without compensation, 1,400 white-owned commercial farms, the Zimbabwean government continues continues to blame whites - a tiny but economically dominant section of the population - for the political and economic crisis.
White businessman are accused of deliberately hiking prices to precipitate the fall of the corrupt Mugabe regime. Yesterday, Chen Chimutengwende, the Information Minister, said that the riots were being organised by white farmers and industrialists bent on frustrating plans to hand over farmland to landless blacks.
Mr Chimutengwende also lashed out at the International Monetary Fund and Western economic powers which he claimed all worked together. He said the IMF and World Bank's structural adjustment programmes were also to blame for the riots because they caused mass poverty and suffering.
But ordinary people blame government corruption and greed and disastrous economic mismanagement for their misery. A coalition of Zimbabwean human rights groups has accused the government of seeking scapegaots for their own failings.Reuse content