Speaking at the burial of a senior military officer in Harare, Mugabe charged that some industrialists, including miners, had been drafted into a "regime-change" agenda by Britain, deliberately reducing production, raising prices and illegally banking foreign currency abroad.

Black empowerment

"We will seize the mines ... we will nationalise them if they continue with the dirty tricks.

Inside Zimbabwe


Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa reports on Zimbabweans
on the brink of starvation
 

"All companies, we will take them over if they continue with their dirty game. Take note, we will be equal to the challenge. We are capable of playing that game too," he said.

On Tuesday, a government minister said Zimbabwe will transfer control of all companies, including foreign banks and some mining operations, to locals if a planned black empowerment bill is passed by the country's ruling-party dominated parliament.

Zimbabwe's business community - including a dwindling number of local subsidiaries of multinational companies, older white-owned firms and black-owned companies which prospered after 1980 - is already struggling in what the World Bank calls the fastest shrinking economy for a country not at war.

Brink of collapse

Analysts said approval of the empowerment bill could deepen the economic crisis which has pushed Zimbabwe to the brink of collapse with inflation now believed to be over 4,000 per cent per year.

Tony Hawkins, economic analyst, said the government was employing a political ploy to distract people from the economic crisis that has left four in five Zimbabweans without jobs.

"I suppose the logic behind this thinking is because in 2000 the land invasions won them an election, company seizures could do the same in 2008," said Hawkins.

Mugabe said on Wednesday his government would not hesitate to jail company executives who were raising prices unreasonably as the hikes were designed to wipe out state-ordered wages meant to cushion the poor.