Friday, 14 December 2007

Polls set for March without fail: Presiden

Polls set for March without fail: President

Features & Political Editor Caesar Zvayi

NEXT year’s harmonised elections will be held in March without fail, and contestants who will not be ready by then will have only themselves to blame, President Mugabe warned yesterday.

In his keynote address during the official opening of Zanu-PF’s Extraordinary Congress in Harare, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe did not have a culture of ambushing the opposition as was done in some Western countries.

‘‘We have four elections to prepare for, that of president, that of senators, that of members of the House of Assembly, and finally that of our councillors in local government.

‘‘We shall hold this combined poll in that month of March without fail, in the month of March without fail. I want to emphasise that because we started announcing that we would have this election in March next year, about six months ago, and our election processes here are never by way of ambush as they do in Europe, no, we announce them well in advance and the people must prepare for them.’’

In apparent reference to the MDC, particularly the Tsvangirai faction that has been calling for the postponement of elections to June claiming there isn’t sufficient time to come up with an environment conducive for a ‘free and fair’ election, the President said: ‘‘If some parties are not ready they have no one to blame, we have given them enough time and there is another three months to go.’’

The President said he was confident of winning as he has the support of the people.

‘‘I have only a small body, I weigh about 75kg, but I have about 14 million people that I lead in the country, and their welfare is my concern. Just calculate their weight on me, babies, ladies fat and thin, all of them I carry them here. I dare not, I dare not abandon them, and every one of them matters to me.

"Must I surrender today in 2007, and allow the British through a neo-colonialist approach to take over? What will those who have suffered and died for the country, those who have gone before me, and especially those I worked with? Ubaba uNkomo, Ubaba uMzenda vazakuuthini? I can’t let them down, No!

‘‘It’s aluta continua, it must be aluta continua for you too. If I show my fist like that, I must know it’s the fist of 14million people, ndoti kamuri kuoona kanonzi kaMugabe ikaka kane 14million people, their welfare is my welfare, their suffering my suffering, but they also have rights, their rights must be respected, their right over land, it’s their land after all, their gold, their platinum, their forests, their elephants, their everything in Zimbabwe. They own Zimbabwe, Mr Blair, Mr Brown, Mr Bush, you do not belong, you are not one of them. So keep out, keep out, keep out!’’

Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe has a well-established and enviable democratic record, and has never stolen an election contrary to claims by the opposition and its Western overlords.

‘‘There is democracy in the country, we have held our elections timeously, every five years in a very free manner. We have never rigged an election, never ever.’’

The President said even though the Government knows that the MDC is a front for western interests, the democratic tradition had made them engage the opposition leadership in dialogue since they are Zimbabweans.

‘‘We know that the opposition themselves were put together by the British, the three parties — Labour Party, Conservatives and the Liberals — put aside a fund, the Westminster Fund, and on that strength they got the leaders of the trade union here to start a party, and we know it, it has not been denied and it has been published in Britain, and that’s how the MDC was founded.

‘‘But we accept they are Zimbabweans, and are our compatriots and we talk to them. Whatever views and illusions they may have entertained in the past, we try to talk to them and get them to correct their views and correct their stance, and avoid the influences that come from outside, from Europe.’’

The President thanked South African President Thabo Mbeki for mediating between Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions, saying even though he was mandated to do so by Sadc, he was also doing it on behalf of the ANC government. He called on Congress to adopt a resolution thanking the South African leader and Sadc for brokering dialogue.

The President said Zimbabwe does not entertain western interference because there are regional and continental structures to assist, where there is need for assistance.

‘‘But our posture is that they (the West) should not interfere in our internal affairs, they should not interfere in our regional affairs, we’ve parties here, the people here can talk to each other and resolve their differences.

"If we need assistance we have our neighbours, we have our Sadc friends, we have our Comesa friends, we have our African Union friends, those brothers and sisters of ours within the region, within the continent are best suited to give us advice.’’

He said British prime minister, Gordon Brown had proved to be a political midget by trying to isolate Zimbabwe, yet his predecessors, the Conservative government of Mrs Margaret Thatcher never behaved that way even though, at times, it had serious disagreements with Zimbabwe differing greatly on ideology.

He said the prevailing economic problems stemmed from western attempts to sabotage the revolutionary path Zimbabwe has taken by attempting to strangle the economy so that the revolution can abort and dissuade other developing world countries from following suit.

‘‘Imperialism has sought to strangle our economy so that what we are doing here does not succeed, because if it succeeds others will copy what we are doing elsewhere, and they try to divide us as much as possible, they try to tarnish Zimbabwe everywhere possible.’’

It was regrettable that some businesses had bought into the illegal regime change agenda, and were sabotaging the economy.

‘‘May I now finally refer to our situation here, also the situation of our people, our families, and that is a situation that is being caused by our industrialists and those in business. Sometime ago, there was a situation we recognised as one of sabotage in our economy.

"Prices were going up by the day, changing by the day, in a manner that baffled everybody, and at the same time there was glee in certain quarters in Europe that Zimbabwe’s economy was collapsing and alongside it, the Government.’’

The President said a taskforce was set up to look into the matter, and take action to prevent the escalation of unethical business practices.

The taskforce approached various business enterprises and representatives of business who said they could not produce because they were facing a variety of challenges, chief among them foreign currency shortages.

The funds they required were availed under the Basic Commodities Supply Side Intervention (Bacossi) facility, but still they did not supply the products, and where they did so, the prices were still unacceptably high.

He said Government might be forced to take action unless business sticks to the agreements struck with it.

‘‘Vakataura nevene vezvitoro nevemaindustries kuti mitengo iderere. Asi nekudaro kwacho vakabva vavamba kubvisa zvinhu muzvitoro ndokungosara mashelves asisina zvinhu.

"Vachitaurwa navo vakati hatina foreign currency, zvakare zvinhu zviri kutidhurirao, tirikushaya transport. Zvadaro zvavakataura zvakawanda, chitoro chega-chega, vese-vese vakataura kuti havana foreign currency yekuhodha zvinhu vaipihwa ipapo.

"Asi vadaro kwakazoitwa chibvumirano chekuti zvanga zvichiitwa zviregerwe, zvinhu zvidzokere mumashelves, vanhu vawane zvinhu nemitengo yakaderera, asi nanhasi zvinhu zvirikuramba zvichikwira .

‘‘So I want finally to warn them that unless they themselves have a discipline, a discipline recognisable by us, we might have to take action, and take action against them. We have tried to take a number of actions following certain decisions, discussions with various groups but if what we agree upon together does not find expression in the actions that follow then obviously we will have to decide on measures that will result in those actions being more positive than they are prone to be.’’

The Government, the President said, was working on various measures to improve the lives of the people, and among these was economic empowerment to give people access to mineral resources.

He said the empowerment programme would be broad-based and geared at ensuring that the majority benefit, and not a select few. He, however, warned beneficiaries not to defeat the programme by being used as fronts by foreign investors, as they (Zimbabweans) are entitled to majority shareholding in all business ventures.

‘‘The policies of Government must now address the issue of empowerment, and that is why empowerment of our indigenous people is a theme of this Congress.

"Our empowerment must be real empowerment, it should not just aim at giving one or two people or a few individuals an opportunity, it must address the people as a whole.’’

This realisation and aspiration, he said, was the reason why the Government had embarked on land reform to address the needs of the majority rural populace, who constitute over 75 percent of the population.

‘‘We have said in the mining sector, sure we want to have investment, sure we want to have expertise brought into the country, but not at the expense of our people. That is why we enacted a law, the Mines and Mineral Bill which aims at empowering the people and will insist on equity with regard to precious minerals, investment in precious minerals in favour of our people…

‘‘Chatisingade ndechekuti vedu, kanamaita partnership nevarungu, imi mosesekedzwa mberi mongova mafront chete, asi shure uku kwavanokambura zvinonaka vari varungu. You become mere fronts, no. We want you to be real owners, if it is a partnership, let it be a true partnership with them.

"In some cases you do not even see those who are behind. And the company is presented to us as that of indigenous people, when in fact it has some silent partners who are the main investors.

"No we don’t want that kind of business, be yourselves, be open and don’t agree to be used by others.’’

Turning to agriculture, the President said farmers should take advantage of the rains that have begun favourably, and use the equipment they were given under the farm mechanisation programme to maximise productivity.

He said all farmers must not forget that the land they have invited the backlash from Britain and her allies, and they owe it to the nation to put it to full use.

‘‘Land, land and agricultural activities must lead the other sectors as it were. In other words, all the other sectors, the manufacturing sector especially which leans on agriculture must not be allowed to suffer because agriculture has suffered.

"That is why we decided on helping all our farmers by way of procuring those tools, instruments that make for greater agricultural efficiency.’’

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