efe-epaHarare

The government of Zimbabwe has lifted restrictions on the import of basic products, as the African country has plunged into a supply crisis on the back of a worsening economic situation, official sources reported Wednesday.

The government seeks to replace the stocks in supermarkets after three weeks of compulsive purchasing by citizens, who are buying up products for fear of future shortages.

State-run newspaper The Herald quoted information minister Monica Mutsvangwa as saying that the "Cabinet further observed that owing to panic and speculative buying, products which used to be sold over a month, are now being sold in just three hours' time, a situation which is completely unsustainable."

Among the goods that can now be imported into the country are cooked beans, bottled water, cooking oil, flour, peanut butter, sugar, soap and fertilizers.

The fear among the population was unleashed earlier this month following a joint statement by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and Central Bank governor John Mangudya regarding a new package of economic stabilization measures.

Among these measures was a 2 percent tax on e-payments - one of the most frequent forms of payment in the country where cash dollars are scarce - which sparked protests by citizens and trade unionists.

Zimbabwe began to restrict imports two years ago in order to promote the local economy and only receives some products coming mostly from neighboring South Africa.

Zimbabwe adopted the US dollar in 2009, but the cash has disappeared from banks in the last two years, after being almost impossible to obtain at ATMs.

The current crisis comes less than a year since President Emmerson Mnangagwa rose to power after succeeding Robert Mugabe in Dec. 2017 following a military intervention that put an end to the latter's leadership of almost four decades.