Zambian leader Says He Stands By Zimbabwe

Speaking at a State banquet hosted in his honour by Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace Mugabe, at State House last night, President Banda commended his Zimbabwean counterpart for what he called Government’s well-articulated economic recovery programme.

He assured Zimbabwe of Zambia’s continued support despite the negative effects of the global economic crisis, while reiterating that the illegal sanctions imposed on the country by a cabal of Western nations and their allies must be lifted immediately.

"I wish to re-affirm Zambia’s commitment to contributing to the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme in order to assist Zimbabwean brothers and sisters.

"Following the Sadc Extraordinary Summit in Swaziland, we are encouraging countries to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

"The lifting of sanctions will help facilitate the implementation of the recovery programme," he said.

President Banda said he was impressed by the manner in which the political leadership had stuck to the tenets of the Global Political Agreement that created the inclusive Government despite the scepticism expressed by some Western countries regarding the success of the arrangement.

President Banda arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon on a four-day State visit that will see him officially opening the 50th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo today.

President Banda, who is accompanied by his wife Thandiwe and family, was met at the Harare International Airport by Robert Mugabe, his wife and their children, Robert Jnr and Belamine.

Also at the airport to welcome the Zambian leader were State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi; Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Stan Mudenge; Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu; Harare Metropolitan Province Governor and Resident Minister David Karimanzira; senior Government officials, service chiefs, diplomats and Zambians resident in Zimbabwe.

President Banda’s delegation includes Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mr Felix Mutate; while Zambian Agriculture Minister Dr Brian Chituwo, Provincial Minister for the Copperbelt Mwansa Mbulakulwa, the Deputy Minister of Energy Gladys Lundwe and the director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Watson Mwale, are already in Bulawayo for the trade fair.

President Banda was given a 21-gun salute at the airport — the highest honour that can be bestowed on a visiting head of state.

Mugabe and Banda will tour stands at the ZITF grounds before the latter officially opens the annual exhibition later today.

President Banda is also expected to travel to his birthplace in Vumba Chigwe Village, Gwanda District, in Matabeleland South.

At last night’s banquet, Mugabe outlined the long history of co-operation between Zambia and Zimbabwe, a history dating back to the days of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

"For these sacrifices and for your country’s support under very difficult circumstances, Zimbabwe will always remain grateful," he said.

He paid tribute for Zambia’s support during the inter-party talks that led to the formation of the inclusive Government.

"We recall with deep gratitude, that Your Excellency, as Acting President of Zambia, attended the signing of the Global Political Agreement on September 15.

"This is typical of the solidarity which your great country and people have always shown for Zimbabwe."

President Mugabe also took the opportunity to once again assure the nation of Zanu-PF’s commitment and determination to see the inclusive Government succeed.

"We may be experiencing a few teething problems in the process. This is normal in an arrangement of this nature.

"However, as you are aware, we have put mechanisms in place to deal with such problems and I am confident that these problems will soon be behind us," President Mugabe said.

He condemned the illegal economic sanctions, saying Government’s efforts to turn around the economy would be hampered by the continued existence of the economic embargo.