Tuesday, August 14, 2007
FULL text of address made by President Mugabe on the occasion of National Heroes Day, at the National Heroes Acre yesterday
ONCE again, one of the most revered days in the life and evolution of our country, National Heroes Day, brings us to this National Shrine and various other shrines throughout the country in remembrance of our heroes and heroines, those to whom no price was ever too high to pay for the freedom of our country. National Heroes Day is thus an important occasion on which, as a nation and indeed, as individuals, we should pause and reflect on the supreme sacrifices made by our selfless fighters.
For, despite the hardships and challenges they endured from the repressive and oppressive instruments of settler colonial rule they remained unflinching in their determination to free their land and secure for it and their people, a dignified existence in the community of the nations of the world.
The heroes we salute on this day every year came from diverse social and professional backgrounds to answer the united call of action against British colonial aggressors. Those we lost, departed with honour, having refused to betray the hopes of the oppressed masses.
And today we pray that these acts and the spirit of selfless dedication be rekindled in us and continue to impart to us that self-same commitment and willingness to subordinate personal interest to the greater collective good of our nation. Our heroes also taught us, nay, still continue to teach the virtues of unity, selfless dedication and patriotism.
Today, we face a different anger from our former colonial masters in reaction to our bid to economically empower our people. If indeed we are a sovereign independent nation, we see no reason whatsoever why our empowerment programmes should encounter such undeserved opposition as comes from Britain regularly.
There will never be a recognition of that opposition and hostility as an attitude that can ever deter us from expressing our sovereign right to govern ourselves as we deem fit.
The last two months have been very sad indeed for us as we bade farewell to three illustrious sons, namely Brigadier-General Armstrong Paul Gunda who lost his life in a tragic rail-road accident, and then Retired Major- General Rodelio Taurai Gideon Lifa and Brigadier-General Fakazi Mleya due to illness. We also, over the year, lost many other heroes buried as liberation heroes in our provinces. Once more, I reach out to the families they left behind and urge them to cherish the exemplary legacy of perseverance, honesty and patriotism shown by their loved ones.
As we seek to consolidate our freedom and empower our people, we remain aware that there are those among us who have never on any single day seen any good on what our heroes have done. And so it is not surprising that when we give land to the people we are denigrated as turning them into peasant farmers, when we restore sanity to the conduct of business we are accused of bringing hunger to the people and when we assert our sovereignty we are being out of touch with reality.
Government is very clear about its programmes and continues to prioritise agriculture as the mainstay of the economy. Accordingly, we are committed to ensuring that land use is maximised in order to boost agricultural productivity and achieve the important goal of food security for the nation. In this respect, we are already benefiting from a special agreement for the supply of agricultural inputs including fertilizers, agrochemicals and agricultural machinery which we entered into with the China National Machinery and Equipment Company.
Through this arrangement, the country received tractors, fertilizers and chemicals for use in both the winter and summer cropping seasons.
A planned minimum of two million hectares of maize sorghum and millet will be financed by Government through Agribank and Operation Food Security. Individual farmers, corporates and the Reserve Bank’s ASPEF facility will finance the remaining 600 000 hectares of grain. To improve access to inputs by other farmers, the Grain Marketing Board will continue to sell inputs outside Government support.
In order to further raise agricultural productivity, Government with the assistance of the Reserve Bank and other stakeholders, has embarked on a long-term agricultural mechanisation programme. The objective of the programme is to sufficiently and efficiently equip farmers with various implements in tandem with other logistical and back-up support. Happily, the programme is not only confined to cropping, but has also been extended to animal husbandry support in the southern provinces that generally enjoy comparative advantage in animal farming.
Government has now embarked on training the first beneficiaries of the mechanisation programme on appropriate and efficient use of the equipment. Polytechnic colleges around the country have also commenced a complementary training programme to produce skilled technicians who can repair, maintain and manufacture farming machinery and equipment thereby guaranteeing sustainability of our mechanisation programme. The expanded programme will continue to empower all farmers, including special interest groups such as war veterans, women, war collaborators, communal and A1 farmers.
In recent months, we witnessed a brutal and merciless price war against our people, where business raised prices by two, three or even four times a week. Such brazen conspiracy called for drastic counter measures in order to bring sanity to the pricing arena. A Cabinet Taskforce on Price Monitoring and Stabilisation was therefore set up to work on rationalising prices of products and services, including those not on the initial list of monitored and controlled goods, in order to protect the majority of Zimbabweans from being short-changed by the business community. The taskforce will eventually make way for the effective operation of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.
In fulfilment of the task I have referred to, Government has gazetted Statutory Instrument 142 of 2007: Control of Goods (Price Control) (Amendment) Order, 2007 (Number 11), which orders that prices should be pegged at levels obtaining on the 18th June 2007. Under the new law, business must seek approval from the Ministry of Industry and International Trade before raising prices. I would like to remind estate and landlords that they too should respect the laws of the land. It is illegal to charge rentals in foreign currency or evict a tenant without the stipulated three months’ notice. The moratorium on rent increases remains in force pending finalisation of the appropriate regulations by the Commercial and Residential Rent Boards.
Government is currently engaging all stakeholders, including manufacturers, on a sector-by-sector basis, not only to restore the integrity of the pricing system but also to address other challenges within the economy. In the interim, Government has urged business to continue providing goods and services as before, while negotiations for appropriate pricing levels continue.
Economic empowerment is a critical component in transforming society. Despite Government efforts since Independence to indigenise the economy and empower black Zimbabweans, the lack of a comprehensive legal framework has been a constraining factor: Consequently, Government has introduced the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
As part of efforts to ensure that ordinary people enjoy and benefit from the opportunity to run small businesses, Government this year allocated Z$39,4 billion to the Small and Medium Enterprises Revolving Fund that is administered by the Small Enterprises Development Corporation (Sedco). This has also been complemented by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) injection of Z$32 billion to benefit the same sector countrywide, resulting in the creation of 3 004 jobs and the sustenance of a further 2 362 created earlier on. Training in various business management skills is in progress in all our 10 provinces. Government is also determined to create bigger markets for Zimbabwe products.
In order to mitigate against price increases by commuter omnibuses and protect the public, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) will continue to extend services to urban and inter-city commuters. Plans are underway to introduce passenger services between Bulawayo and Beitbridge, and Government will give support to the NRZ for the rehabilitation of infrastructure. In an effort to cushion the urban traveller from speculation in the fuel sector, Government has started supplying fuel from Noczim to honest commuter bus operators, in order to reduce fares that had reached ridiculous levels. Zupco has also continued to grow its fleet through the purchase of new buses and the refurbishment of older ones. I am glad to report that Zupco is also covering more rural routes, thus providing an affordable alternative for many rural travellers.
The development of the telecommunications industry is inseparable from the modernisation thrust adopted by Government. The congestion being currently experienced by mobile users is certainly undesirable, and the setting up of additional base stations and switching centres should lead to an improvement in service delivery.
Our commitment to high standards of service delivery by retaining qualified personnel remains paramount. Government through public-private sector partnerships has embarked on a public service housing programme. One thousand housing units are planned under the first phase of the programme that will eventually cascade to the provinces and districts. This should go a long way in motivating and retaining staff. Through the National Housing Delivery Programme, Government is also implementing strategies to meaningfully tackle the housing challenge in urban areas.
The Social Amenities Fund, which is now operational, is currently being used to refurbish and reconstruct 159schools in the 59 rural districts in the country. Social amenities like schools are important in consolidating the country’s position as the African country with the highest literacy levels, while at the same time ensuring that we get the much-needed skilled workforce.
In the education sector, it has become necessary to amend the Education Act and remove the previous use of the Consumer Index (CPI) when calculating school fee increases. All schools are now expected to apply to the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture for fee or levy increases. The applications will be considered on their merit and no school should charge, demand or otherwise effect any fee or levy increases without Government approval.
Government is aware of the invaluable sacrifice made by war veterans towards the liberation of our country and has indexed their pensions to salaries of serving Defence Forces members. Government has also established schemes to give assistance to ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees and their dependants, in recognition of their contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe.
The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe who are the custodians of this revered shrine, are in the last phase of compiling the oral history project called "Capturing a National Fading Memory", which began in 2004. By identifying and recording oral testimonies of those who participated in the struggle, this programme has given the history of our liberation struggle an important perspective. This will ensure that the story of those who fought for our freedom will forever be remembered as the records have been created for permanent preservation.
An equally informative exhibition on the roles played by Zimbabwean women in the liberation of the country was mounted at the Heroes Gallery here at the National Heroes Acre. It chronicles their contributions from the days of Mbuya Nehanda to the present. In the same light, the Upper Mazowe Valley, a cultural landscape associated with the legend of Mbuya Nehanda and early African resistance to colonial occupation and rule, has been declared a national monument.
The Registrar-General’s Department has launched a two-month mobile registration exercise in preparation for the 2008 elections. It is necessary that during the harmonised presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, the police should put in place sufficient measures to ensure that there are no cases of politically motivated violence. We have all the confidence in the Zimbabwe Republic Police as it has performed outstandingly in the previous elections. This election should be no exception. Those with an appetite for violence should take heed that any breaches of the law and order will be appropriately and sufficiently dealt with. We have amongst us today police officers from the Sadc region who are participating in the Southern African Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) Games, which are currently underway in Harare. We welcome them heartily and hope bonds of friendship will continue to be cemented for the betterment of policing in our region.
Despite the so-called smart sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by some Western countries, we continue to enjoy scholarships benefits from friendly nations such as China, Japan, Indonesia, Democratic people’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Algeria, the Russian Federation, India and Austria. As we strengthen our relations with these countries, many more of our students are expected to be trained abroad particularly in critical disciplines such as health science and engineering technology.
In conclusion, I wish to share with you all the vision of a strong, united, prosperous Zimbabwe occupying its rightful place among peace-loving sister nations of this world. Let us seek to promote in all our endeavours values that include honesty, love care for the less privileged, hard work, justice, loyalty and patriotism.
Together, let us continue to defend Zimbabwe from internal and external forces seeking to reverse the gains we have so far registered as a free people. Let Zimbabwe be an impenetrable fortress inhabited by the people who know fully well the trials and tribulations they endured to attain nationhood, people who are therefore determined to conquer the current temporary challenges and look to the future with hope.
I wish all of you happy commemorations of this year’s National Heroes Day. Zimbabwe belongs to us, never ever to be a colony again!
I thank you.