President Robert Mugabe's Speech at the Opening of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe
Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Herald
August 27, 2008

Full text of President Robert Mugabe's speech at the opening of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday 26th August 2008


Madam President of the Senate, Mr Speaker Sir, Senators and Members of the House of Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends. I welcome you all to this First Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe.

This First Session takes place in the aftermath, and is indeed the logical outcome, of the country's historic harmonised elections. The elections were premised on Constitutional Amendment No. 18 as well as amendments to AIPPA, POSA and the Broadcasting Services Act which were agreed to by all the parties and were unanimously passed by both Houses of Parliament. This occurrence is highly instructive in reminding us that through constructive mutual engagement and by putting the country first, we can, as Zimbabweans, address problems and challenges on our own. The new dispensation of collaboration across the political divide should now see us single-mindedly devoting our energies towards the recovery of our economy.

Let me pay particular and special tribute to President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa for his outstanding role as mediator of the Sadc-initiated inter-party dialogue. He has been at it with the patience and endurance of the biblical Job, often against all-round revilement from well-known quarters that have never wanted peace for this land. Through his mediatory efforts, landmark agreements have been concluded, with every expectation that everyone will sign up to the agreement paving way for an all-inclusive Government.

I wish to pay tribute to all Zimbabweans for having exercised their democratic right in our recent elections in a peaceful manner, notwithstanding the regrettable and isolated cases of political violence, which were witnessed in the run-up to the presidential election run-off. Happily, all political parties in the country have acknowledged culpability in this violence, itself an important step towards putting behind us the odious habit of election-related violence.

I also congratulate all the members of this new Parliament on having won the mandate to represent the various constituencies. In doing so, I acknowledge the inordinate delay in opening this session of Parliament, hoping you will all appreciate that the delays owed to a praiseworthy search for peace and greater amity for our nation.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The elections are now behind us. What currently is upon us is the challenge of a common vision and effort. The era of specialists who are heavy on critiques and empty on prescriptions is gone. Now is the time for us to put Zimbabwe first, and challenging the many things that stifle our potential and trammel our energies.

Foremost in this regard are the much-reviled illegal sanctions imposed by Britain and her allies, which seek to subvert the will of the Zimbabwean people. These must go. They cannot last a day longer if we, as true Zimbabweans speak against them in deafening unison. Surely, sanctions cannot be good for any Zimbabwean, and we have abundant evidence of their ravaging impact. We cannot need democracy and condone such blatant spiteful injury at the same time.

We are deeply indebted to Sadc, the African Union, members of the Non-Aligned Movement, our allies in the United Nations Security Council, and other progressive peoples of the world, for their invaluable support and solidarity with us, in the face of the vicious onslaught on Zimbabwe by Britain and the United States of America. We cherish their brotherly advice and support, and pledge that we will not let them down.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir.

The current global food shortage and the consequent price escalations are a powerful reminder to us of the need for concerted efforts to enhance food security at both the household and national levels. This past season saw our agricultural yields sharply reduced owing to a combination of floods, drought and shortage of inputs.

As always, Government has done its best to ensure that no one starved. Already, a massive programme for the importation of maize from neighbouring countries, notably South Africa, is underway. So is the procurement of locally available maize.

Regrettably, we have noticed the destructive hand of our enemies seeking to undermine our grain importation programme, in the process, pushing up regional food prices. Indeed, food is the latest of their weapons in their regime change agenda.

It is, however, not prudent that we should continue to subsist on food imports. Our efforts are thus being focused on empowering our farmers for greater crop production. Facilities such as the Farm Mechanisation Programme, the Agricultural Support Productivity Enhancement Facility (ASPEF), and the introduction of the Input Pack Support Programme for rural farmers should go a long way in meeting this objective.

These efforts will be complemented by the introduction of an appropriate agricultural commodity-pricing regime, designed to stimulate production. Furthermore, the local fertilizer industry is being supported with foreign currency in order to boost production, while projected shortfalls will be met from imports.

Government will also spearhead implementation of the targeted production of strategic crops. This programme will involve the provision of tillage; seeds, fertilizer, chemicals and harvesting support to identified farmers, who will be required to produce to set targets.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

On a broader level, our economy continues to face challenges associated with the hyperinflationary environment. These range from shortages of basic and essential commodities, foreign currency, fuel and power, as well as declining quality of infrastructure.

This negative state of affairs is further compounded by the prevalence of speculative and profiteering tendencies as well as in-built price misalignments in the economy. We have also detected an insidious foreign hand in the destabilisation of our currency.

Government, in conjunction with the other critical stakeholders, is embarking on a short- term bridging economic stabilisation programme. The programme seeks, among other things, to encourage price stability, introduce appropriate currency reforms, boost availability of basic and essential commodities, boost the availability of foreign currency, enhance food security, aggressively embark on infrastructure development as well as revamping service delivery by public utilities.

Targeted subsidies will be introduced to cushion vulnerable social groups from the anticipated adverse effects of the pricing reforms, while greater emphasis shall be on combating endemic corruption and wanton indiscipline that is so pervasive in the economy.

The initiatives I have referred to need to be complemented by enhanced fiscal prudence. Accordingly, the Public Finance Management Bill, which is designed to minimise misappropriation and mismanagement of public funds, shall be tabled before this august House. In addition, the Audit Bill, which should enhance accountability in the audit process and eliminate inherent limitations in the current Audit and Exchequer Act, will be introduced during this session.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

In the energy and power sector, the shortage of foreign currency has contributed to minimal maintenance of power supply infrastructure, a situation which explains frequent breakdowns and unscheduled power cuts currently being experienced.

However, the agreement signed between Government and NamPower of Namibia for the refurbishment of the Hwange Power Station will go a long way in redressing this undesirable state of affairs.

Already, this has seen the completion of Unit 1 of the station, while work on the other three units is expected to be complete by October 2008. The Energy Laws Amendment Bill, which seeks to facilitate the harmonisation of the energy sector, shall be brought to Parliament during this session.

With regard to fuel, the supply of the product continues to be constrained by the shortage of funding, coupled with the unprecedented rise in oil prices on the world market. This situation demands that we reorient our mindset and reduce the ostensible careless consumption of fuel.

For this reason, innovative measures such as the fuel conservation programme, promotion of bio-fuels production, and the resuscitation of blending of petrol with ethanol, are being implemented, while the exploration of solar and coal-bed methane gas as alternative energy sources is being accelerated.

I am pleased to note that the production of fuel-grade ethanol at Triangle has already started, while the Crude Oil Agreement with Equatorial Guinea, which had expired, has been renewed.

Measures to curb the current upsurge in cases of vandalisation of public utilities infrastructure must be strengthened. Service delivery by TelOne, NetOne, Zesa and the National Railways of Zimbabwe has been compromised, in some cases severely.

Accordingly, Government is establishing co-ordinated security structures incorporating local communities and other relevant stakeholders for purposes of safeguarding public infrastructure. The levels of such unlawful activities require a reclassification of the crime. It now has to be viewed as economic sabotage.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The empowerment of the formerly deprived indigenous majority of our people is the centre- piece of our development efforts. Now that the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which provides for the acquisition of at least 51 percent shares in every public company and any other strategic businesses by indigenous persons is law, implementation of the empowerment policy shall be pursued with renewed vigour on a sector-by-sector basis.

However, to facilitate implementation, some amendments of the Act will have to be brought to this Parliament during this session. The amendments will, among other things, empower the relevant minister to prescribe what constitutes a strategic company or sector, the timeframe for compliance with the Act, and the approval format for indigenisation arrangements.

This development will also facilitate expeditious tabling of the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill in Parliament, which seeks to broaden participation in the sector by indigenous players.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Government will also press ahead with the implementation of initiatives to promote the growth and development of the small and medium enterprises sector. One such initiative is the US$5 million grant availed under the Indo-Zimbabwe Project, in terms of which machinery and equipment have been availed to assist the designing and manufacturing processes in the sector.

Under the same project, SMEs Technology Centres have been established at the Harare Institute of Technology, in Bulawayo and Chitungwiza. Other such common service facilities will be established at growth points throughout the country.

However, to guarantee sustainable development of the sector, it is necessary to create a conducive regulatory and operating framework. To this end, the Small and Medium Enterprises Bill shall be brought to Parliament during this session.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Whereas as a country we have made tremendous strides in the education sector, there is still need to ensure that our education remains globally competitive as well as relevant to national needs. This is consistent with our goal to become a knowledge-driven and globally competitive economy.

Accordingly, the Zimbabwe Qualifications Authority Bill, which seeks to integrate and harmonise qualifications, and superintend the development and registration of national qualification standards, will be brought before this august House.

The Bill will also seek to align the Zimbabwe Qualifications Framework to the proposed Sadc Regional Framework of Qualifications and Quality Assurance Systems. The Education Act shall also be amended to provide a more sustainable basis for pegging school fees.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Health service delivery continues to be constrained by the shortage of essential drugs, equipment, food, transport and skilled personnel. It is, however, pleasing to note that steady progress is being registered in addressing these challenges. For instance, the introduction of a generic training programme has ensured that there is at least one trained nurse at every health facility. The training shall be scaled up to achieve a full complement of staff at the health centre level and in laboratory and X-ray services.

Staff retention in the sector is set to be enhanced through incentives such as the provision of affordable transport and housing under the recently launched Medical Skills Retention Scheme. Government is also pursuing arrangements for the local manufacture of affordable drugs, while the sector is being prioritised in terms of foreign currency allocation.

It is, however, noted with concern that efforts to promote sanitation, health and hygiene continue to be undermined by the persistent erratic water supply situation, especially in major urban areas. To address this challenge, steps are being taken to build the requisite capacity in Zinwa.

I am pleased to note that Government has already taken delivery of considerable quantities of the required equipment and machinery procured from China. Installation of the equipment is already in progress, as a result of which some improvement in water and sewer pumping is already evident in parts of Harare.

The District Development Fund, in conjunction with Zinwa, is carrying out a borehole sinking and rehabilitation programme in some parts of our urban areas, while work will continue in mobilising funding for the procurement of the much-needed water treatment chemicals.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

The shortage of coal for tobacco curing has resulted in increased deforestation on farms. To reverse this negative trend, Government shall come up with regulations that compel tobacco farmers to grow woodlots for purposes of tobacco curing.

Furthermore, in the area of environmental management, Government will, during this session, bring for consideration by Parliament the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Basal Convention on Transboundary Hazardous Waste, the Rotterdam Convention on Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.

The phenomenal growth witnessed in the construction industry has raised the need for enhanced regulation of activities in that sector. Accordingly, this Parliament will during this session consider the Zimbabwe Construction Industry Council Bill, which provides for the establishment of a council responsible for maintaining standards in the sector.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Workers across the board continue to face an acute shortage of accommodation, ever increasing transport costs and declining disposable incomes, owing to the prevailing hyperinflation. Government will continue to periodically review tax thresholds, thereby increasing workers’ disposable incomes.

To address the plight of the commuting public, increased support shall be availed towards the recapitalisation of Zupco as well as boosting the fleet of buses under the District Buses Programme.

Increased fuel allocations and waiver of duty on spares shall be extended to private transport operators. Moves by some companies to provide transport for their employees should be applauded, and indeed, encouraged.

The current harsh economic environment has also undermined the welfare of pensioners and other older persons, who now also have a huge dependants burden, owing to the unabating HIV/Aids pandemic.

Accordingly, the Older Persons Bill, which will cater for the entire welfare of older persons, shall be tabled during this session. On its part, Government has since indexed the pensions of retired civil servants to the salaries of serving members so as to improve their livelihood.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir.

Corruption imposes a huge cost burden on the conduct of business. As such, efforts to revive the country’s economy could remain a pipedream unless they are supported by stern and decisive action to eradicate the scourge of corruption, which has now reached alarming levels. This will have to be done sooner rather than later. There will be no sacred cows seeking to hide behind the banner of social positions or party affiliation for their venal tendencies.

Madam President, Mr Speaker, Sir,

Zimbabwe, as Vice Chair of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) regional grouping, will be the next host of the regular Comesa Summit. Accordingly, the country has to position itself to reap from the expected benefits as well as the anticipated establishment of the Comesa Customs Union.

Following the signing of the Beira Development Corridor Agreement between Zimbabwe and Mozambique in December 2007, work is now underway to implement the identified projects. One such project is the Forbes/Machipanda One-Stop Border Post.

Concerted efforts are being made to expedite implementation of co-operation agreements with our "Look East" development partners. The agreements cover strategic sectors of the economy such as power and energy, mining, infrastructure development and agriculture.

The tractor project between the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITM Co) and the Industrial Development Corporation is set to yield tremendous benefits to Zimbabwe by way of technology and skills transfer; import cost savings and expert revenues.

On the diplomatic front, we continue to call for the reform of the United Nations, in order to render it truly representative of its broad constituency, thus providing checks against the abuse of power by those who are favoured by the current unipolar geopolitical system. The prevailing order where the stronger nations tread over the rights of smaller nations and manipulate the United Nations mechanisms with impunity constitutes a grave threat to international peace.

Zimbabwe has been a victim of this not only cynical but abusive manipulation of the UN Charter. Equally, we have seen attempts by bigger nations at destabilising world peace. Western countries must stop their unholy policy of global encroachment, which can only undermine the status quo or even re-ignite a new arms race.

In conclusion, I wish to urge all Zimbabweans to rekindle the spirit of national pride and self-belief as we strive to build a strong, united and prosperous Zimbabwe. Let us exert our full effort towards raising our country and its flag in the manner our Olympic team has done in Beijing.

I am sure you all join me in congratulating them, especially Kirsty Coventry, most heartily on that heroic performance.

I wish you fruitful deliberations and have pleasure in now declaring this First Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe officially open.

I thank you.

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