Address by his Excellency President Mnangagwa marking his first elective year in office, 30th July 2019.
This month marks one year since our watershed democratic election which marked our democratic transition to the Second Republic.
Apart from putting closure to the inaugural First Republic, the harmonised elections played midwifery to a brave new future.
Once more I heartily thank you for choosing me to lead you on this new, exciting but long journey, a year of which we have now completed.
As we look to more milestones ahead, we also look back at those we have walked past. It has not been easy, but with your collective resolve and support, good ground worth celebrating has been covered. Above all, a solid foundation has been laid for more and greater gains in future.
Let us rejoice therefore!
The harmonised elections paved the way for us to engage and re-engage the world, and to do so from a strong position of democratic compliance and responsibility. Today the world notices, evidence of which shows by way of substantial international goodwill our country now enjoys, after more than two decades of isolation, or lukewarm relations at best. We are back into the international fold, with those we continue to re-engage, notably the Europeans and Americans, increasingly warming up to our overtures.
Relations are thawing
Our goal is the complete removal of the punitive sanctions which have arrested us as a nation and ensure a full return to normal, unfettered relations with all nations of the world. As we reflect on year-long efforts towards this goal, we see noticeable gains.
On our continent of Africa, and within our Southern African Development Community (SADC), our stature continues to rise, with Zimbabwe now set to assume Chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security this August. Both SADC and the AU have been key to our overall diplomatic offensive.
Beyond fostering good relations with all peoples and nations of goodwill, our foreign policy has been predicated on our ambition to recover our economy for sustainable positive growth and development after decades of stagnation. The framework has been our two-year Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), which we launched soon after my inauguration, to commence and guide our transformation into an Upper Middle-Income Economy by 2030. As I address you, the World Bank recognised our efforts and validated our ambitious, upgrading us to a Lower Middle-Income Economy from efforts of just one year.
We are on the right path and our ambitious vision is within grasp
We continue to engage International Financial Institutions (IFLs) and creditor nations so we unlock more inputs towards our full recovery. The ongoing discussions with our creditors are promising, with our Staff Monitored Programme (SMP)with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) proceeding remarkably well. For the first time in decades, Government has been able to balance its books, and to even enjoy a healthy surplus. This points to good stewardship of public affairs, itself a prerequisite for normalising relations with International Financial Institutions and creditor nations.
We remain eternally grateful to all those nations outside the AU which have stood by us through thick and thin, principally the People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, Belarus, Spain and Brazil. We never take their support for granted.
Parallel to engaging and re-engaging the world must be our own efforts as Zimbabweans aimed at salvaging our situation and improving the home environment. Only by demonstrating will and desire to help ourselves will nations of the world step in to assist.
The pace at which our broad reforms have unfolded in the year which has gone by is truly remarkable. We have signposted fundamental legislative changes which are set to address and redress the democratic deficit which has held us back in the past, to create a new environment where our people enjoy all fundamental rights, even beginning to take them for granted under the Second Republic. As I address you, bad laws are being repealed, and are set to be replaced by good ones which comply with our celebrated Constitution, and international tenets of good governance. Laws facing repeal and replacement include POSA and AIPPA, with legislative processes towards that end at an advanced stage. No piece of legislation which is deemed offensive, restrictive or undemocratic will be spared. I am determined to uphold my pledge to bring about a durable democratic dispensation under the Second Republic.
Our otherwise flawless transition to full democracy last year was married by political violence which broke out on 1st August, soon after the polls, and recurred in mid-January this year. These two incidents were regrettable and threatened to set us back. Since then, I am happy to say our country has and continues to enjoy undisturbed peace and stability, and a strong sense of accountability promoted by the International Inquiry which followed that temporary setback.
In working for a durable peace, I ledge to keep the hand of dialogue and goodwill outstretched to all Zimbabweans, including those I raced against in the July polls. Never again should electoral contest be allowed to degenerate into open conflict that mars our peace. The National Dialogue, through which the majority of the national political leadership has sought to find one another, and to work together on national issues, is now underway. I continue to urge the few parties which have shunned the National Dialogue to please reconsider by joining in the consolidation of national peace, and in working in harmony for economic recovery and growth.
Since my path-breaking meeting with the Matabeleland Collective Group early this year, we have begun tackling and healing wounds created by conflicts of early years of our Independence. The process which is being led by Vice President Mohadi, is going on well in the search for lasting solutions. Communities affected by this troubled phase in our evolution as a nation must continue to be engaged and to be consulted on how best they can be helped in order to help them get over this sad chapter. They have a right to be heard and helped so we bring closure to this matter for durable peace, and to build an abiding sense of national belonging.
On the economic front, painful but necessary reforms have been made in the year that has gone by. The multi-currency regime which ran from 2009, has now given way to reforms towards a national currency whose value is determined by the market. The multi-currency regime had eroded our export drive thus hurting our recovery efforts. Through this key reform, and the operationalisation of open market in all spheres, we have geared our economy for a major transformation underpinned by greater efficiencies, fair value and secure property rights. While the beginning may be painful, the medium to long run will deliver durable more jobs, economic stability, growth and development.
In the year that has gone by, we repealed indigenisation laws that were unfair made us unattractive to Foreign Direct Investment. The law to create the one-stop shop, Zimbabwe Investment and Development Authority (ZIDA), is now before Parliament. We have used the year that has just come to a close to look at laws, by-laws, regulations, procedures and practices that have created costs of doing business in our country. While we are not yet where we desire, international ratings on cost and ease of doing business have registered significant gains.
Last year I signed on our behalf, Zimbabwe’s membership into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA). Our Parliament has since been ratified our membership which means we have to be a low-cost production economy so that we trade competitively on the continent and beyond.
Just last week I paid a very successful State visit to the sister Republic of Namibia during which several bilateral trade, investment and economic agreements were signed. Our interaction with Namibia has now been upgraded to full Bi-National status which we also enjoy with South Africa and Botswana. Additionally, I inaugurated a dry port facility in Namibia, making Zimbabwe sea-linked to West Africa, Europe and the Americas via the Atlantic Ocean. We continue to increase our trade routes and outlets to enhance our export drive. As I address you, another Bilateral Joint Permanent Commission with the United Republic of Tanzania is underway. As with most such commissions, the focus is economic. Later in the year of October, I am set to visit Russia at the invitation of President Putin, the second such visit in a year.
In the year that has gone by, far-reaching changes have taken place in our mining sector. Our gold output has been up-scaled from about 23 tonnes the year before to 30 tonnes last year. We expect an even bigger tonnage this year. The platinum subsector has seen even more dramatic expansion and investments by way of more green-field projects, and greater strides towards value addition and beneficiation.
Changes towards a liberalised diamond mining sector have brought back old players, and attracted new ones, most notably ALROSA, the world’s largest rough diamond company, in the case of the latter. Exciting projects continue to blaze a new trail in lithium mining; as, too, does exciting prospecting news from Muzarabani oil and gas fields. It has been an eventful mining year indeed under the New Dispensation.
After several years of neglect and decline, our infrastructure has begun to receive attention. Many of our trunk roads are under construction, as, too, are our feeder roads. While contracts for the dualisation of key roads are being finalised, works on the same continue throughout our own efforts. Equally, our rail network and services are being revamped so, alongside modern highways, we transform Zimbabwe into a regional transportation hub with excellent links to other countries and seaports. Dam construction projects that had either long stalled or had been abandoned, have been resumed. The critical Gwayi-Shangani Dam project is now taking shape, with completion expected in about a year now.
The current searing drought has wreaked havoc on our already fragile power supply. As I address you, Lake Kariba, our only major source of cheap hydro-electric power, is only 24 percent full, with its power generation capacity having declined by two thirds from 900 megawatts to just over 300 megawatts. For that reason, our huge investments by way of Kariba South Extension have not repaid us. The good news is that our expansion of thermal power generation by way of Hwange 7 and 8 is proceeding well.
Equally, and together with the sister Republic of Zambia, we have finalised and awarded tender on the huge Batoka Gorge Hydropower Project which, once completed, will put us in a power surplus position. In the meantime, we continue to plug the power deficit through more imports, with results likely to start showing in the coming week or so. Of course several projects on cheap solar are being expedited.
While addressing big questions on the economy, we have not forgotten the important social sectors, themselves key to providing safety nets in these times of austerity. We have looked at improving public transport through affordable mass transits both for urban and rural areas. Programmes towards revamping the health sector, both by way of improving affordable drug supplies and re-equipping our major referral hospitals, are in full swing. Our agreement with General Electric of America, and governments of India and United Arab Emirates, will see major transformation in the health sector.
A key, double-pronged challenge in the year under review has been another crippling El Nino drought which affected the whole country, overlaid by a freak cyclone codenamed Idai which hit four provinces, most seriously those of Manicaland and Masvingo. Government led the whole national effort aimed at rescuing families hit by the devastating cyclone. As I address you, Government work continues in affected areas, supplemented by vital contributions from you, Zimbabweans, and inputs from donor countries and organisations which came to our rescue.
In respect of the El Nino drought, the figures of families which are food insecure continue to rise. At the peak of the drought more than 5 million Zimbabweans will be food insecure. In the two sittings of Cabinet, Government has taken adequate measures to ensure the drought does not become a disaster. All told, about 750 000 tonnes of grains will be imported to meet the national deficit. Government has also launched an International Humanitarian Appeal locally with the international community. My pledge is that no Zimbabwean life should be lost on account of the drought.
Needless to say, as we fend off the drought, we also gear ourselves for a new agriculture season we all hope will be a better one. Efforts are ready underway to mobilise inputs for the new season to perform better in order to lighten our import burden. These include a greater push towards a bigger hectarage under irrigation to cushion ourselves from vagaries of the weather.
All of these endeavours, and more we envisage in the year we are about to begin, will require national peace and integrity. Development gains are only feasible in an environment of peace and harmony. We should jealously guard and defend our peace. Equally, we should declare zero tolerance on corruption for national integrity. I have already reconstituted the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to help in the fight against corruption of whatever kind, at whatever level and by whomsoever. We need a clean society where the virtues of honesty and integrity are cherished and upheld.
I look forward to an even more eventful year characterised by greater national gains and more abundant benefits that will accrue to each and all of us.