In Video
Robert Mugabe speaks to Al Jazeera
The opposition, lead by Morgan Tsvangirai, has argued that it could solve the country's financial problems within 100 days with investment from the West.
 
Mugabe also said that the government will try to lower prices and nationalise firms that fail to cut costs.
 
"They [representatives of the retail sector] will meet officials from the ministry of industry and international trade and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe because we want them to reduce prices to those which were in effect before the salary hike [in February]," Mugabe said.

The 84-year-old president has criticised daily price rises, saying they wipe out benefits from recent salary increases for teachers and civil servants.

With inflation running at more than 100,000 per cent, retailers say they have no option but to raise tariffs. Mugabe accuses them of involvement in a plot to topple his government.

In June last year, the ruling Zanu-PF party, headed by Mugabe, ordered businesses to halve the prices of their goods and services. Some 12,000 retailers and manufacturers were arrested during a two-month crackdown.

'Election gimmick' 

Mugabe said retailers who do not co-operate could end up being the subject of new legislation under which companies will be forced to place their majority shareholding in the hands of indigenous black Zimbabweans.

Mugabe was quoted by local media as saying: "We are going to read the riot act to them. If they refuse, we will also not co-operate... We are going to use the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act." 

However, Nelson Chamisa, the chief spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party, said any order to slash prices again would fail to address the underlying problems.

He said: "This is an election gimmick... He wants to pretend he sympathises with the suffering people when he is the author of the suffering."

Foreign investment

Mugabe also told Al Jazeera that the government is focusing on the agricultural sector, encouraging the growing of winter crops such as wheat and barley.

Mugabe stressed the importance of investment, saying that "the East" was helping the country.
 
Mugabe supporters are confident of an
election victory [AFP]
He said: "We have realigned ourselves and [are] not depending on the West any more ... we are looking East ... we have lots of friends in the East.

"Already we have started going into various partnerships with the Chinese, Indians, Indonesians and Iranians – across the sectors – these alignments will start bearing fruits, and they are steadily investing in the country..." 

Mugabe was critical of what he sees as the failure of Western countries to invest in in developing nations.

He said: "The West never gives investment to developing countries - never. Just charitable donations, particularly reflected through the various NGOs [non-governmental organisations]."

Rigging allegations 

The opposition also accuses Zanu-PF of trying to rig the elections. They claim that nine million ballot papers had been printed when there are only 5.9 million registered voters.  
But according to Joyce Kazembe, the deputy chairwoman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), denied the allegations.

She said: "What we know and what we have done is that we have printed ballot papers that are adequate and a small percentage extra for spoilt papers."

Mugabe also told Al Jazeera that Zanu-PF is dealing with corruption within government circles.

He said: "We are dealing with it, and we have arrested people."

"We can only arrest people if we know [and have proof], we cannot just detain people without evidence."