Zimbabwe needs heroes now - MDC

Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accused former colonial power Britain of trying to undermine the country's free-falling economy during a speech on Monday to mark National Heroes' Day.

"Today we face a different anger from our former colonial masters in reaction to our bid to economically empower our people," Mugabe said, blaming Britain for the country's spiralling inflation.

He said Harare would not flinch from "expressing our sovereign right to govern ourselves as we deem fit".

Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic crisis with inflation well past the 5 000-percent mark, four in every five people jobless and no less than 80 percent of the population living below the poverty threshold.

Mugabe, 83, who has been in power since his country's independence 27 years ago, addressed a crowd in Harare to commemorate those who died during the liberation struggle from Britain.

In a sign of the desperate economic situation, he reiterated a warning to businesses against profiteering and exhorted them to "engage in ethical practices".

At least 7 500 business executives and shop managers were arrested for overcharging and not displaying price tags on goods, a move Mugabe said was prompted by a spate of price hikes outstripping salary increases.

"In recent months, we witnessed a brutal and merciless price war against our people, where businesses raised prices by two, three or even four times a week," he said.

"Such brazen conspiracy called for drastic counter measures in order to bring sanity to the pricing arena."

Opposition faction leader Arthur Mutambara used his Heroes' Day address to condemn Mugabe's policies, widely blamed for the country's economic meltdown.

He said the "aims of the liberation struggle and its heroes who gave their lives for the emancipation of our great land have been subverted".

These goals were "subverted by those who claim to be current living heroes but who in reality have stolen the hopes and aspirations of millions of Zimbabweans since 1980", said the leader of a breakaway faction of Zimbabwe's opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change.

"This group of heroes-turned-villains has lost any semblance of the redeeeming values of shame and self-respect.

"The real heroes of our generation will be those who will restore Zimbabwe as a nation in which we can all be proud." - Sapa-AFP

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