President Mugabe Opens Parliament in Harare, Zimbabwe
Prime Minister `Morgan Tsvangirai, Vice-president Mujuru and Deputy Prime Ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe arrive at the Opening of the Third Session of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday.Members of the Presidential Guard of the Zimbabwe Army take up their positions outside Parliament soon after the arrival of President Mugabe to open parliament in Harare, yesterdayPresident Mugabe whistling to himself as is his custom whenever he inspects the Guard of Honour. Behind him is the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine ChiwengaPresident Mugabe arriving in his vintage Rolls Royce at the Parliament Buildings in Harare yesterday.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 14 July 2010President Robert Mugabe opened the Third Session of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare yesterday as crowds watched from Africa Unity Square on a giant screen.
There was gridlock in the city centre, the traffic jam having been caused by the closing off roads leading to the parliament building to vehicle traffic. Pedestrians could still move freely, though.
The President displayed impatience with the Kimberley Process, which is delaying authorising the sale of Zimbabwe's reserves of 60 000 carat in diamonds from Chiadzwa in Marange, Eastern Zimbabwe. He said his government will go ahead and sell the diamonds whether the KP liked it or not.
That warning should be taken seriously.
There were even some very progressive policy proposals in Mugabe's speech, the most notable of which was the requirement for diamond producers to set aside 10% of their revenue for local diamond cutting and polishing. If done properly, this should see employment being created as an entirely new industry is set up. Because Zimbabwe's population is so well-educated but not that well-paid, the country could become another little Belgium as far as this particular down-stream industry of the diamond trade is concerned.
What I fear, though, is that we may well see the well-connected trying to corner this market through intimidation and fear. The government will have to be vigilant with this one, as they have proved to be with the Themba Mliswa issue, where a well-connected individual who had used his political connections to loot the country has now been brought to book and faces countless charges before the courts as I write this.
Zimbabwe's economy, according to the president, grew by just over 5% (a fact confirmed by Finance Minister Tendai Biti in his mid-term Fiscal Policy Review earlier today).
The benefits of this growth are still not being felt by the majority, though, who are still unemployed and are struggling to put food on the table.
On the issue of the diamonds from Chiadzwa , the president had this to say:
"The Kimberley Process Monitor's report declared the country (Zimbabwe) as having fulfilled the Kimberley Process minimum requirements as per the Joint Work Plan agreed to in Swakopmund, Namibia. The same report indicated that the country should be allowed to proceed with the immediate exportation of its diamonds. However, those ill-disposed to us have have not given up the use of absurd conditionalities and other dilatory tactics in a bid to block the sale of our diamonds. Let there be no doubt whatsoever about our resolve to sell our diamonds for the benefit of our country and our people."
The President also announced the coming of several bills before parliament during the sitting of this session.
Another significant policy proposal was the opening up of power generation to the private sector, although Mugabe couched it in uncertain language saying new players will be brought in either as entirely private power generators or as part of some form of Public-Private Partnerships. Knowing the ideological slant of both the MDC and ZANU PF, it is unlikely that entirely private power generation will be allowed.
But this is exactly the sort of thing that would ease pressure off the national, government-owned company, ZESA, that currently carries the burden for supplying the country with power and is clearly failing dismally.
Even PPPs are not looked on favourably by either party in government and it is very likely that we will remain with the undesirable status quo for some time to come.
Still, it was a hopeful speech by Mugabe and one that makes all the right noises. Implementation is another matter entirely, which we will now wait to see if it comes from parliament and cabinet.
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