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President Mugabe's State of the Nation address
Posted: Friday, December 20, 2002

President Mugabe yesterday delivered the State of the Nation address in Parliament. The following is the full text of his address.

Mr Speaker,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

I address you at a time when our country is experiencing considerable difficulties related to the devastating drought that has ravaged our region. Indeed, I address you amidst warnings and fears of yet another drought. This challenging situation has been compounded by preceding seasons of devastating floods and, in sum, dramatises our increasing vulnerability to natural disasters and the need for national preparedness. The Nation remains anxious about the immediate season and the prospects it bears for all of us.

A direct outcome of these repeated adversities has been a generalised food shortage both in the country and our region as a whole. Most of our southern African countries do not have enough food and have resorted to food imports for survival. A huge food import effort is underway in the region and clearly our port, rail and road systems are stretched to the limit in order to meet the logistical demands imposed by this adverse situation. It is a regional problem; one which has imposed tremendous hardships on our peoples and a stupendous strain on our economies and infrastructure.

Here at home, household stocks have practically run out in most areas and Government has had to meet total food requirements from imports. Even parts of our country which managed some harvests in the last season or which normally enjoy good harvests in good years have exhausted their stocks and Government is having to include them on its ever growing list of areas of need. Government is stepping up grain purchases and the overall movement of food so we can sustain our people until the next harvest which we hope might mitigate the drought.

To date, Government has provided $8,67 billion in food aid. As at the 6th of this month, a total of 1 005 862 metric tonnes of grain had been contracted, with 648 231 metric tonnes having been delivered. These received quantities have gone to all our people, strictly on the basis of their numbers and survival needs across the country.

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of tackling this situation of extreme need with a common vision and unity of purpose, and of course, with the usual creative fortitude, which has seen us through similar droughts in the past.

I appeal especially to our corporate citizens to play a visible, responsible and meaningful role to complement the Government effort. The man and woman standing in need of food cannot apply himself or herself fully when he or she is concerned about where to get the next family meal. Without food, there cannot be any production, just as there will not be any food if we do not produce. The challenge should thus be that clear to all of us.

Owing to the drought, the question of the pricing of basic commodities has become an important aspect of our policy aimed at buttressing the social security of our people. It has thus become a national issue and not a prerogative of the entrepreneur. Similarly, the issue of incomes and wages would have to be looked at from the same perspective so that our collective response is broad and comprehensive enough to restore the survival threshold of our people. I, therefore, urge Government to continue consulting with business and labour for outcomes that bring sustainable relief to our people. These tripartite consultations should concretely focus on those commodities that are basic to our people and which thus should be made available and remain within the reach of the common man.

Because our economy is agriculture-led, resolving the question of drought constitutes the unavoidable basis of getting our economy to make the required turn-around.

Hence, under the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme, Government has increased the amount to be expended on inputs from an initial $1,4 billion in 2000 to $7,6 billion in 2001, $8,5 billion in 2002 and now to $12,5 billion in 2003. In addition, a total of $1,4 billion was this year allocated for the purchase of irrigation equipment and rehabilitation of schemes covering an area of 7 749 hectares throughout the country.

Major rehabilitation works carried out at schemes such as Dewure, Chibuwe and Mutema in Manicaland; Mankonkoni in Matabeleland South; Shashi and Lukosi in Matabeleland North; and Chilonga in Masvingo, should result in enhancing our food production capacity. The successful winter crop piloted in Masvingo this year should now be extended to other areas with water masses so the yields of maize and wheat are significantly increased.

Several dam projects which would meet the Nationís growing water demands, especially for irrigation purposes, are now at different stages of implementation and four of them, namely Mundi Mataga in Mberengwa, Matezva in Bikita, Chikombedzi in Chiredzi and Sadza in Chikomba will be completed this year.

The District Development Fund is providing tillage to farmers and the exercise has thus so far covered over 63 000 hectares benefiting more than 13 000 families from the $800 million made available during the 2002 winter cropping season. In the current 2002/2003 summer cropping season, over 60 000 hectares have been tilled out of a target of 100 000.

Mr Speaker, I have had occasion to update this august House on our Land Reform Programme which is meant to address the inequitable historical land apportionment as between the majority of our people and the minority white settler community. I have also had occasion to announce the near conclusion of the A1 phase of the Land Reform Programme, while announcing progress registered to date in respect of the A2 programme which focuses on commercial agriculture. A lot still remains to be done in fulfilling the basic requirements of the A2 programme, although the land acquisition process has gone a substantial distance.

Mr Speaker, our Nation has paid dearly for embarking upon the urgent and unavoidable land reforms. We have been criticised for doing the right thing, namely, accomplishing the sovereign mission of acquiring our heritage. Now that the land has come, let this Nation be repaid by its new breed of farmers who should work the land diligently and produce abundantly for it and its neighbours.

Mr Speaker, although we are confronted as a Nation by several economic challenges, Government continues to introduce a number of measures whose aim is to restore macro-economic stability. Most of these measures were announced in the 2003 Budget, while others were announced later. Our agrarian reforms should accordingly be supported by other measures that seek to stimulate our small and medium-scale enterprises, while regenerating activity in the traditional sectors of mining, manufacturing, commerce and tourism, all with a bias towards stimulating our export sector for greater foreign exchange earnings.

Our Employment Creation Fund has reached out to rural communities and a total of $290 million was disbursed towards 2 000 projects throughout the country, 61 percent of which are rural-based while 51 per cent are female-owned. Cumulatively, over 80 per cent of these projects are in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Mining has, in the past year, been affected by low international prices and rising costs of production. The new fiscal incentives for mining and approved new incentives to increase the production of gold by the small-scale and alluvial gold sectors, medium-scale and large-scale producers, have gone some way towards causing some recovery.

A notable development in mining is the increase in applications for exploration licences by local small companies. While more resources should be channelled towards these players, as the future of the industry lies in their hands, the setting up of the Gold Mining and Minerals Development Trust (GMMDT) will facilitate the growth of the small-scale sector, by assisting the mining and benefication processes.

Mr Speaker, tourism is certainly recovering. Tour operators and travel writers from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia and Malaysia who visited Zimbabwe on fact-finding missions testify to this fact. More initiatives should be embarked upon in order to achieve the overall turn-around of this lead sector.

Mr Speaker, the passage of the Rural Electrification Fund Act this year has given a fillip to our rural electrification programme. To date, two bonds, totalling Z$7 billion have been successfully issued to finance the rural electrification programme. As at 21st October 2002, 1 507 projects had been completed countrywide under the Expanded Rural Electrification Programme. The Programme also provides beneficiaries with end-use infrastructure such as equipment used in irrigation, welding, milling and various other small businesses, which will, in turn, enable them to use electricity for economic gain.

Infrastructure development remains the cornerstone for the growth of the economy. The Road Fund established to finance maintenance of roads and bridges has, to date, accumulated about $2,6 billion, of which about $2,3 billion has been disbursed to the respective road authorities namely, the Department of Roads, Urban Councils, Rural District Councils and the District Development Fund.

The new Chirundu Bridge built at a cost of US$22 million through a Japanese government grant has been completed and is now commissioned. The bridge should improve the increased flow of traffic between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Major civil aviation projects are being implemented, such as the rehabilitation of the Harare International Airport runway, and the upgrading of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Victoria Falls and Buffalo Range airports at a cost of $2,5 billion, $14 billion and $3,5 billion respectively.

Housing remains a major priority for Government. Consequently, $198 million was allocated to local authorities to up-grade old housing estates in various parts of the country, with a further $150 million being allocated for servicing about 1 350 stands at growth points and rural service centres countrywide. Other activities included construction of the Harare Composite Office Block and Chirundu Border Post facilities. Projects in progress include the Interpol Sub-Regional Headquarters, Central Registry and Immigration Headquarters, Rural Health Centres and 13 District Hospitals.

In the area of education, Government continues to expand tertiary education in response to demand. All technical colleges have been up-graded to polytechnic status to facilitate the diversification of programmes while the curricula of vocational and technical institutions have been reviewed to respond to emerging needs such as those occasioned by the agrarian reforms. In this regard, the rural industrial attachment programme for students in technical and commercial disciplines has been introduced to stimulate the rural economy. As the students gain practical knowledge and skills, they simultaneously assist local communities in development projects.

A total of 61 A-Level classes have also been established and 29 of these are rural district schools to allow easy access to rural students who would otherwise find it expensive to enroll at boarding schools. The preservation of Zimbabwean social norms and values is at the core of our education through teaching topics on our Constitution, National Anthem, National Flag and Human Rights. In order for children in resettlement areas to continue with their education, 346 primary and 93 secondary satellite schools have been established.

To reduce the number of vulnerable children dropping out of school, about 700 000 children in primary, secondary and special schools have been assisted with levies, tuition and examination fees under the Basic Education Assistance Model (Beam) since January this year. In fulfilment of our commitment to the Declaration of the Fifty-fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Government has set in motion the process for monitoring and reporting on the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty by the year 2015. The Children in Difficult Circumstances (CDC) programme is another response by Government to revitalise the traditional child-care approaches by empowering communities so they can assess, analyse and take appropriate action for vulnerable children in their areas. A total of $50 million was allocated this year for the purpose. The National Youth Service Training Programme opened more centres at Guyu in Gwanda, Mushagashe in Masvingo and Dadaya in the Midlands. Another centre at Kamativi will open in April 2003.

Given the significant role of this programme in moulding and developing our youth, Government will ensure that it has adequate resources to meet the expansion plans for the year 2003 and beyond.

The HIV/Aids pandemic continues to ravage the country. As part of Government measures to combat the spread of the disease, the number of Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres has been increased from 10 in 2001 to 15 in 2002; free nevirapine for the prevention of mother-to-child infection has been secured to cover the period 2002 to 2007 while district and village Aids committees are now functional throughout the country, thereby strengthening the process of district planning and organisation to fight HIV/Aids. By the end of August this year, the National Aids Council had raised $4,5 billion of which $2,1 billion had been disbursed.

The biggest challenge of dealing with HIV/Aids remains the need for the population to adopt healthy lifestyles. It is in this context that in addition to implementing water and sanitation programmes, the Government has allocated $2,5 billion for child supplementary feeding to cover an estimated 1,4 million children under the age of five until the end of the year.

The brain drain fuelled by aggressive recruitment by overseas agents has resulted in the loss of several health sector personnel, the most affected group being nursing which has lost about 2 000 nurses. As a short to medium term measure, the Government has re-introduced the training of state certified nurses and other paramedical personnel such as pharmacy technicians, clinical officers or assistants to physicians. This is in addition to the recruitment of various health personnel from friendly countries, for example, Cuba, whose 110 medical personnel have already been deployed to various parts of the country.

Mr Speaker, Britainís relentless diplomatic campaign of vilifying and isolating our country has hit a frenzy only matched by its futility. There is a growing recognition even within the European Union that this Blair-led anti-Zimbabwe drive is as unjustified as it is spiteful. A number of countries are questioning the British motives, while global solidarity with Zimbabwe continues to grow. Equally, the search for new partnerships with non-traditional regions of our economic pursuits is beginning to yield positive results. We remain guided by principles of mutual respect and unbending regard for the sovereign will of independent nations. The regard we give to all nations of the world is the respect we expect from the same world.

Much against malicious claims, we have completed our mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and all our soldiers deployed there have come back triumphant at the conclusion of a hallowed pan-African duty. What the international community could not achieve with so much tragedy in the 1960s, has been accomplished by three small southern African nations with meagre resources and abundant will. As always, the prophets of doom have been shamed and we have written yet another chapter in peace-making and peace-keeping, a glorious chapter in African solidarity. Today, the DRC can march towards peace, with her boundaries clearly etched and drawn, her right to self-determination fully asserted.

In our relations with our partners in Sadc and the African Union, Zimbabwe has always sought to play a constructive role in addressing issues that affect the region. The centrality of our policy has been and will continue to be based on peace and stability as pre-requisites for social and economic development.

Mr Speaker Sir, I wish to urge all Zimbabweans to actively participate in partnership institutions like the National Economic Consultative Forum and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum and proffer collective and home-grown solutions to the economic and other challenges that our country is facing. The National Economic Consultative Forum has now set up its own permanent secretariat dedicated to following up on the implementation of recommendations arising from the Forum.

As we bid farewell to yet another year, let us all look to the New Year with hope, remaining steadfast in our endeavour to seek economic justice and prosperity for our people and country. Yet before the year ends, we have the Christmas period which, as a joyous and charitable occasion, should inspire us to espouse the virtues of love, unity and oneness both as individuals and as communities.

Let us be better people in 2003. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

I thank you.

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