"It is the non-food items that pulled the inflation rate upwards. The top three items that contributed most to year-on-year inflation were electricity, gas and other fuels," he said.

 

The government has forecast inflation to ease to between 350-400 per cent by the end of the year.

 

However, analysts say the Mugabe government has no policies or proposed reforms to slow it down and the International Monetary Fund expects it to reach 4,000 per cent.

 

Government unlikley to cut spending

 

The crisis has raised the cost of consumer goods, rentals, public transport fares and medical fees. It is now also deeply felt in Mugabe's rural strongholds and political analysts say it is testing the loyalty of his security forces.

 

"The economy is the best organiser of demonstrations. In my view, a trigger will ignite mass demonstrations ...  and could spread across the country" 

Eldred Masunungure,  chairman, political science department, University of Zimbabwe
Gideon Gono, central bank’s governor, has proposed a price and wage freeze and a cut in state spending from next month as the only way to tame inflation.

   

But critics say the government, faced with growing pay demands, is unlikely to cut spending.

   

"It's a political mess ... judging by the way things are going, the February figure should top 2,000 per cent," John Robertson, a private economic consultant said.

    

Doctors and nurses have been on strike since last month to protest worsening conditions and have now been joined by some teachers and university lecturers.

 

Mass demonstrations

  

The main union of government employees demanded at the weekend a salary review for all civil servants and said the "agitated" workers could consider protests unless the demand was met.

   

"We are coming to a stage where there is a convergence among all the workers that they have to confront the source of their misery," said Eldred Masunungure, chairman of the political science department at the University of Zimbabwe.

   

"The economy is the best organiser of demonstrations. In my view, a trigger will ignite mass demonstrations which will start in major cities and could spread across the country," he said.