President Robert Mugabe and first lady Grace of Zimbabwe. Mugabe will stand for re-election on March 29.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
ZIMBABWEANS must uphold unity and avoid riding on bandwagons of doom, President Mugabe has said.
Addressing a rally at Phakamani Secondary School in Plumtree, Matabeleland South Province, to drum up support for the ruling party ahead of the March 29 harmonised elections, Cde Mugabe said unity was vital.
"Unity is fundamental. We must be a united people. We must have the spirit of oneness among us that is felt everywhere. You may be Kalanga, Zezuru, Manyika, Venda . . . this or that tribe, but one fundamental bond we have is that of national unity.
"You are a Zimbabwean. You can travel from here to Gweru, Zimbabwe, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, Marondera, Zimbabwe, right up to Mutare, it’s your country. Every part of it is your country now,’’ he said.
"You can dance amabhiza, isitshikitsha, it is my dance. Jerusarema is also my dance, muchongoyo at Checheche in Chipinge, where we were a few days ago, is also my dance.
"It’s culture. We have this diversity of culture. As a result of this diversity, Zimbabwe is rich in culture. Whether you dance isitshikitsha or whatever, we all fly one flag and sing one national anthem, which the kids were singing for us here. We are one," he said.
Cde Mugabe said there were two important things that some of the founding fathers of the nation, the late Vice-Presidents Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda, always harped on: unity and land to the people.
"I shall always remember and remember that this land has come about because of immense sacrifices by our people," he said.
The President said he worked closely with "Umdala uNkomo and Umdala uMuzenda’’.
"Along the way there was fighting. It is regretted,’’ he said, referring to post-independence disturbances in Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
"We re-united ourselves and reminded ourselves that we are one people. There is need for us not to let go on the land and unity," Cde Mugabe said.
He said the two issues were so dear to Cde Nkomo that even when he was on his deathbed, he still spoke about them.
"I remember visiting Umdala Nkomo at hospital and he told me to remember, ‘land, land, land’, and ‘unity, unity, unity’ and I will never forget that. To me, as long as I live, I commit myself to that. I can sacrifice for that. I will never surrender to Blair, Brown or Bush and his American army. I will tell them Zimbabwe is for the people of Zimbabwe and can never be a colony again,’’ said Cde Mugabe to applause.
At an earlier briefing attended by senior party members in the province before addressing the rally, Cde Mugabe said he was surprised that Dumiso Dabengwa had chosen to follow expelled Simba Makoni, who is standing as an independent presidential candidate in the elections.
"Why should Cde Dumiso have done that in this divergent way? But such things are to be expected in struggles. I can’t understand what the real motivation is,’’ said Cde Mugabe to applause.
"Don’t ride on a bandwagon which is destined to doom and you know it’s doomed. So why support that?
"What makes me rather feel upset is that Makoni was never in the limelight. We picked him as a student and sent him to Europe. We all know he didn’t come from the grassroots. Dumiso came from the grassroots.
"I can’t understand why he chose to follow a little man like Makoni," said the President.
Zanu-PF Matabeleland South provincial chairman Cde Rido Mpofu told President Mugabe that members of the party in the province were "not part of the defectors’’.
Cde Mpofu also told Cde Mugabe that the ruling party would win resoundingly in the harmonised polls.
He said Zanu-PF won 24 wards unopposed when the Nomination Court sat in the province but one ward in Beitbridge fell to the opposition "because of a careless mistake’’.
In response, Cde Mugabe said the election campaign was important.
"The campaign is very important in defending the gains of our revolution, gains of our struggle, the victory we got in 1980, the land which is in our hands, the freedom we are enjoying, the right of our people to determine their future, the right of our people to choose who they want to govern them. We brought democracy.
"The British should not teach us democracy. We endured all kinds of suffering . . . and even though (Ian) Smith said there would never be majority rule in a thousand years and later changed to in ‘my lifetime’, we got it in his lifetime.
"He only died yesterday. According to Nkrumah, a good imperialist is a dead one,’’ he said. Cde Mugabe said the British were "throwing lots of money’’ as part of "mechanisms to divide us’’.
‘‘We have to be astute, resilient, and alert and demonstrate in a physical way that we are strong, not to stand and box them. There is no room for that nor is it desirable. On 29 March we should deliver a blow . . . a vote that will dismay the British, although it may not disarm them. Make them feel the pain of supporting MDC and Makoni," he said.
Later addressing the rally, Cde Mugabe condemned merchants of regime change.
"It is they (the people of Zimbabwe) who can bring about regime change not you erstwhile imperialists, stay away,’’ he said.
He said he was aware of the challenges posed by sanctions, which the people were enduring.
Cde Mugabe said Government would continue empowering the people through provision of infrastructure such as clinics, hospitals, schools, universities and polytechnics as it had done since the attainment of independence in 1980.
He said Government wanted every province to have at least a State university, polytechnic and a vocational training centre.
"When I was a teacher at Empandeni Mission in 1945, I was only 21 years old then, Plumtree High School was a white man’s school, it was purely for white children. Now it is ours,’’ said Cde Mugabe.
He said following the land reform programme, the next priority was the mining sector.
"The mines are still under the control of white companies, European companies. We want to indigenise them,’’ said President Mugabe.
He said legislation was in place for the indigenisation of the mining sector.
Cde Mugabe said Government would also set up facilities for concessionary funding for the setting-up of small to medium-scale industries and "bigger factories’’ to generate employment.
He said this would ensure that young people living in border areas like Plumtree do not "jump the border’’ to seek for employment in neighbouring South Africa, although he pointed out that the phenomenon of seeking employment in the neighbouring country was not new in the Bulilima and Mangwe districts.
"In the 1940s when I was teaching here, you would find families without men. They would all be working in the mines in South Africa,’’ Cde Mugabe said.
Cde Mugabe commended the party’s leadership from the area for travelling to South Africa to "re-orient’’ locals working there.
A group of Zimbabweans from Bulilima and Mangwe districts are reported to be building a state-of-the-art motel in the border town and plan to also set up a funeral parlour, upgrade the long distance bus terminus in the town as well as build a complex that will house Zanu-PF offices in Plumtree.
Commenting on the economy, Cde Mugabe said Government was addressing the issue of prices of basic commodities and power outages.
"We want to arrest the price increases and reverse this inflationary trend which is in our country, eating into our wages. We are also looking at the transport system. Our roads are not in good shape following heavy rains for two-and-a-half months. We have started repairing some of them (roads), especially the District Development Fund ones. But we have the main roads which have potholes and require either to be resurfaced or redone with bitumen to make them usable and durable,’’ he said.
He said Government was now importing heavy-duty generators and looking at plans to boost the country’s production of hydro and thermal electricity.
"Although we are short of electricity, South Africa is worse than ourselves. Shortages are more endemic there than there are here,’’ said Cde Mugabe.
"Some of the generators that have been imported might be given tomorrow (today) in Harare,’’ added the President.
Earlier, the Matabeleland South Governor, Cde Angeline Masuku, had told President Mugabe that people from Bulima and Mangwe were happy with the agricultural mechanisation programme but wanted the allocation to be done in a transparent manner as some people who were given tractors "were just parking them’’.
The President said there was need to accelerate the rural electrification programme including the provision of electricity to chiefs’ homesteads as part of efforts to upgrade the status of the traditional leaders who were "custodians of our culture and African law’’.
Cde Mugabe, who was earlier briefed of the looming food shortages in the Bulilima and Mangwe districts, said Government would ensure that no one starves.
"We don’t want anyone to collapse and die because of hunger,’’ he said.
He had explained during the briefing that apart from maize grain being imported from Malawi and Zambia, there were "several thousands of tonnes that would be coming from South Africa’’ and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had already set aside US$3 million for the consignment.
As part of his national information technology programme, Cde Mugabe gave five secondary schools from Matobo 10 computers each.
In his vote of thanks, Chief Madlambudzi thanked President Mugabe for his wise stewardship of the county saying ‘‘Cde Mugabe ndintate wedu’’ in Kalanga.
Cde Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe received a rousing welcome when they arrived at the venue of the rally.
They were accompanied by Zanu-PF National Commissar Cde Elliot Manyika. Zanu-PF Politburo member and Minister of Information and Publicity Cde Sikhanyiso Ndlovu also graced the occasion.
Addressing another rally at Esibomvu Business Centre in Umzingwane District, President Mugabe said the Government’s long awaited heifer scheme as part of the restocking exercise begins in Harare today with the Matabeleland region receiving a significant number of beasts.
He said the agricultural mechanisation programme was still in progress and Government would today distribute more implements such as tractors, ploughs, scotch-carts and generators as it continues to empower people.
"We want a culture of growing birds, growing sheep, growing cattle. So, in regard to cattle, I was informed that there are heifers for distribution tomorrow (today). I don’t know how many thousands there are, but I’m sure Matabeleland will receive some, as it is known for cattle ranching. There will be heifers for Matabeleland," said the President amid applause from the crowd.
He said the elections were crucial because they presented Zimbabweans an opportunity to defend themselves, their rights, future and legacy.
"Your vote should ensure that your support will not be shaken by anyone. That you are your own rulers because you are your own liberators and you continue to defend your land and the movement which led you. You continue to defend the party that brought land into your hands, the chiefs, the farmers," said the President.
The President later donated computers to 15 schools in Insiza and Gwanda districts.