Mugabe pledges to introduce price controls

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After two days of violent riots over food price rises, the beleaguered Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe yesterday promised at an emergency cabinet meeting that price controls would be introduced.

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. 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.