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Twentieth State of the Nation Address delivered by President Mugabe in Parliament
President Robert Mugabe
December 04 , 2007

MADAME President of the Senate

Mr Speaker, Sir,

Senators and Members of the House of Assembly,

Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and friends.

This occasion affords us an opportunity, as a Nation, to reflect on our achievements in the year now drawing to a close while at the same time allowing a review of some of our policies in order to provide them with the necessary direction for the coming year. It is also a time for us to celebrate our successes and to marshal our collective energy for a more vigorous response to the challenges on the path to our aspirations.

This address rides on some landmark developments, both within our polity and in the broader geo-political arena. On the domestic front, the country has continued to hold its own despite predictions of economic collapse and social upheaval constantly harped by our indefatigable detractors. The country has pressed forward with measures towards sustained economic recovery; notwithstanding the suffering endured by many of our people on account of drought-induced food shortages, illegal sanctions and the high-price mania that has stalked the economy. Once again, I wish to thank all our people for their stoic resilience in the face of these challenges. The nation is assured, however, that Government will continue to do all in its power to make life bearable in the face of existing difficulties.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and the MDC factions have ushered in the dawn of a new era of constructive engagement across the political divide. Already, one positive spin-off from this process has been the narrowing of our differences and the establishment of a broad consensus around national interests. The recent unanimous passage by both Houses of Parliament of the Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 18, providing for the harmonisation of presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, is a case in point. As Zimbabweans, let us continue to nurture the unity of purpose and dialogue always aiming to resolve our differences as one family.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

As a country, we are deeply indebted to our brothers and sisters in Sadc, for their solidarity with us, in the face of sustained manipulation and arm-twisting manoeuvres cunningly spearheaded by Britain. We indeed applaud the principled stance by Sadc, which has provided a vital facilitating hand in our efforts to resolve our challenges as Zimbabweans. We give special thanks to President Thabo Mbeki, for his mediating role in the ongoing talks between Zanu-PF and MDC.

On the diplomatic arena, the shifting pattern of events is giving rise to brighter prospects for more fruitful engagement with other nations. The sinister campaign led by Britain to isolate us, including the recent attempt to bar us from attending the EU-Africa Summit soon to be hosted by Portugal, continues to disintegrate. The principled rejection by the EU-Africa countries of attempts by Britain to internationalise what clearly are bilateral differences between us vindicates our position that problems between us and our former colonisers being bilateral should, therefore, be addressed bilaterally. I wish to thank the EU and African countries for their support, and the Portuguese government, who are hosting the EU-Africa Summit, for their correct reading of the situation.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

With the country still facing economic challenges of high inflation, scarce foreign currency and shortages of basic commodities, Government, in conjunction with key stakeholders, has pursued measures to bring about a sustained turnaround of the economy. One of the outcomes of this approach was the historic signing of three protocols to the Social Contract between Government, business and labour on 1 June 2007, and the other was the establishment of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission to synchronise and rationalise incomes and price determination, based on scientific models.

Regrettably, soon after signing the contract, business started increasing prices at an alarming rate, and in some cases, in a manner that smacked of stark political conspiracy. This prompted Government to set up a Cabinet Task Force on Price Monitoring and Stabilisation in order to restore sanity in the pricing arena. However, in the absence of complementary programmes to address the supply side constraints, any gains that had accrued from the price controls were soon lost. Government, therefore, decided to launch the Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention Facility (Bacossi), to unlock the supply of goods and services, with the objective of ensuring their affordability to consumers while guaranteeing the viability of the producers. It is pleasing to note that already there is significant supply response in the form of increased capacity utilisation, yielding greater supply of products, while creating several new jobs as well as saving many.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

However, without effectively addressing the issue of agricultural productivity, the anticipated gains from our Land Reform Programme will remain a pipe-dream. Cognisant of this, Government has embarked on an ambitious but pragmatic Five-Year Agricultural Mechanisation Programme. To date, 2 125 tractors; 1 263 disc harrows; 371 planters; 426 boom sprayers; 85 combine harvesters; 1 386 ploughs; 70 vicons; 200 fertilizer spreaders and 200 hay bailers have been distributed to A2 farmers. In addition, animal-drawn implements were availed to A1 and communal farmers, namely 45 000 scotchcarts; 50 000 ploughs; 70 000 triangular harrows; 70 000 knapsacks; 1 000 planters and 20 000 cultivators. To ensure optimum utilisation of the machinery, Government also embarked on a programme to train beneficiaries of the Agricultural Mechanisation Programme in tractor and combine harvester operations and maintenance throughout the country. Already, 1 384-tractor drivers and 70 combine harvester operators as well as 589 beneficiaries of animal- drawn implements have been trained. Given the predictions of a much better rain season this time around hopes are high that the country will soon regain its status as the breadbasket of the region.
Similarly, Government has launched the Livestock Rehabilitation Programme to increase the national herd by 2,1 million. The programme is targeted at southern and western regions of the country that have comparative advantage in animal production. To contain disease outbreaks, 200 tonnes of active ingredients for the manufacture of dipping chemicals have been imported while schemes to manufacture veterinary vaccines locally are at an advanced stage.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Tourism remains crucial in the turnaround process of the economy. The sector achieved an impressive growth in arrivals of 24 percent, in the first six months of 2007, with the emerging markets of China, the rest of Asia and the Pacific being the major contributors to this growth. Thanks to our Look East Policy.

Government, in conjunction with key stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality sector, is pursuing a long-term programme to expand and upgrade facilities in the sector, in order to ensure that the country derives maximum benefit from the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament to be hosted by our neighbour, South Africa. Currently, the National Sports Stadium is undergoing major renovations to modernise the facility. In addition, work on the upgrading of Rufaro Stadium is also progressing well. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Chinese government and Fifa for their assistance on these projects.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The mining sector is fast growing in status as a leading foreign currency earner. The sustained firming of mineral prices on the international market and the discovery of diamonds in areas such as Marange, underpin this trend. In absolute terms, however, mineral production has continued to dip, owing to disruptive power outages, low capitalisation and high operating costs. However, with arrangements in terms of which mining houses directly import electricity from Cahora Bassa now in place, mining operations should pick up eventually.

Furthermore, to minimise leakages of precious minerals, the Precious Stones Trade Act has been amended to provide for more deterrent measures against illicit dealings in precious stones. Considerable ground has already been covered with respect to the amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act to address, in accordance with our Empowerment Policy, the ownership structure of mining entities, thus ensuring greater participation by historically disadvantaged Zimbabweans in the sector. In addition, the Anti-Corruption Commission together with the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and other regulatory agencies have stepped up operations to stamp out mining-related illegal activities and other economic crimes.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The country this year experienced continuous unprecedented disruptions in power and fuel supplies, largely due to shortage of foreign currency and on account of the projected regional power deficit. To guarantee long-term electricity supply security, Government embarked on various initiatives, which include boosting power-generating capacity, renewing existing regional power purchase agreements, and promoting investment in the sector. Under this programme, Zesa and NamPower of Namibia signed a loan financing and power purchase agreement under which NamPower is providing funds for the refurbishment of Hwange Power Station Stage 1 units. Zesa has also successfully refurbished its Kariba hydropower plant, which can now generate at its full capacity. In addition, Government recently opened up electricity generation to private players in order to strengthen local electricity generation capacity and reduce the country’s reliance on imports.

To address the situation in the fuel sub-sector, Government has embarked on projects to revive petrol blending with ethanol, and the production of biodiesel from jatropha. This programme has received added impetus following the launch of the biodiesel plant at Mt Hampden on the outskirts of Harare on 15 November 2007. The acquisition of this plant is indeed a milestone towards the country’s attainment of self-sufficiency in fuel supply. Government will in the meantime continue to prioritise fuel supply to key sectors such as agriculture, public transport and other essential services.

The problem of limited water supplies continues to haunt several of our urban areas as teething problems associated with the transfer of bulk water supply to Zinwa persist. As part of measures to redress this situation, Government will drill boreholes in the affected areas so as to augment existing water supplies.

Government remains cognisant of the huge potential for small and medium enterprises to stimulate the overall economic turnaround. As such, Government through Sedco, allocated $89,5 billion in support of 7 999 projects, while the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe provided a total of $32 billion to 3 030 projects in the sector. Furthermore, Government is currently implementing the Indo-Zim G15 Project, which seeks to upgrade manufacturing technologies in the sector. To date, machinery worth US$3 million has been delivered while 17 local persons have already been trained in India under the programme.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Work is underway to uplift the quality of rural life and narrow the gap between the rural sector and the relatively more developed urban centres. In this regard, rural housing development is being promoted in each of the eight rural provinces, while the Rural Housing Programme is also being piloted in A1 resettlement areas. A total of 68 youth building brigades and 25 material production units have been established throughout the country, to produce building materials such as bricks, door and window frames, needed for the national housing programme under Government and Public Service Housing Schemes.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir.

The empowerment of women and marginalised communities remains a major priority to Government. In pursuance of this objective, the Women Farmers’ Association was allocated 580 tonnes of fertilizer for distribution to all the country’s 10 provinces, while 28 tractors were acquired for women farmers under the first phase of the Agricultural Mechanisation Programme. While 58 women farmers received training in farm management, a $1 billion Revolving Loan Fund was disbursed equally in all the 10 provinces.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Public service delivery is facing challenges owing to the brain drain problem and the prevailing harsh economic conditions. My Government has therefore embarked on a number of initiatives to attract, motivate and retain skilled personnel. These include the launching of the Public Service Housing Delivery Programme to assist public servants acquire residential properties, and the construction of institutional accommodation in rural areas for public servants.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir.

The receipt by Zimbabwe of the award for Achievement and Excellence in Education at the Second Annual African Nation Award held at the University of Maryland in the United States of America on 13 January 2007 confirmed Zimbabwe’s status as a leading provider of quality education. As we speak, the country has virtually achieved universal primary education, with the Net Enrolment Ratio rising from 92,50 percent in 2000 to 96,55 percent in 2007. However, to maintain these gains, there is need for continuous upgrading of the learning facilities and improvement of the overall learning environment, especially in newly resettled areas.

On the health front, the country has registered progress in reducing the HIV/Aids prevalence rate despite limited resource outlays. Statistics indicate that the prevalence rate among 15-49-year-olds has declined from 24,6 percent in 2003 to 15,6 percent in 2007. Despite this achievement, efforts will continue to further reduce this figure to single digits, using prevention as the primary strategy. As testimony to the success of Government’s retention strategies, the number of districts without a Zimbabwean doctor has declined from 25 to five.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

We continue to forge bilateral agreements with friendly countries as we seek to consolidate and deepen economic relations with both traditional and new trading partners. In the course of this year, we held successful Joint Commissions with Namibia, Botswana, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Algeria. We also applaud the recent scrapping of visa requirements between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and we gratefully note that similar considerations involving other sister Sadc states are underway. This will no doubt expedite economic integration with our neighbours.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The Zimbabwe Defence and Security Forces continued to support the cause for international peace by seconding members to the African Union and United Nations Missions in Sudan. On the domestic scene, apart from their security mandate, they have indeed contributed immensely to major economic turnaround initiatives, such as Operation Maguta/Inala and Operation Restore Production. We are indeed proud of our Defence and Security Forces.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

As a country, we remain patently opposed to the current slide towards unilateralism at the geopolitical level and the accompanying propensity towards military adventurism by some big powers. Such a state of affairs is inimical to the sustenance of international peace and security. We therefore remain steadfast in our call for the reform of the United Nations, especially its Security Council, to make it more democratic and representative of its entire membership. By maintaining the status quo, the institution runs the risk of being reduced to a roughnecks power bar, where the mighty ride roughshod over the rights of smaller and weaker states.

Madame President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

As we head towards the harmonisation of our presidential, parliamentary and local authority elections in 2008, let the message ring clearly to our detractors that as a sovereign nation, we will not brook any interference in our domestic affairs. We will hold our elections guided by our Constitution and laws as we have always done. As is our tradition, we will invite friendly and objective members of the international community to observe the elections. Those of our people who wish to go about campaigning should do so in an atmosphere of peace and shun activities that may leave behind a bitter after-taste. Government has at its disposal the means to deal firmly with anyone seeking to engage in acts of violence.

Madame President, Mr Speaker Sir,

The night of trials and tribulations has indeed been long. We, however, are confident that a new dawn is now on the horizon. It behoves us; therefore, to keep nurturing the spirit of constructive dialogue, as we steer our country towards a destiny of sustained socio-economic development and prosperity.

While diversities in opinion and perception are bound to exist amongst us, it remains our sacrosanct duty as Zimbabweans, to safeguard peace and promote the unity and development of our nation. Our nationality is our common bond of unity.

Let us shun the get-rich-quickly mentality, which predisposes us to ruinous speculative tendencies but instead esteem the virtue of productive and honest work. We should all subordinate divisive individual and partisan interests to the collective good of our nation. Now that we have the land and requisite machinery and equipment, let us transform into reality our goal to attain an agriculture-led economic revival through increased productivity.

Finally, as we look forward to the oncoming festive season, let us share in our merriment with the less privileged around us and observe extreme caution on the roads.

I wish all of you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

I thank you.

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