Cletus Mushanawani in Victoria Falls

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Zimbabwe is a shining example of what it means to be a free country with total control of its natural resources and this dream should become a reality in other African countries, President Mugabe has said.

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He also said he will during his tenure as African Union Chair ensure the Pan-Africanist flame is “re-ignited and re-energised”.

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Addressing thousands at the 21st February Movement celebrations here yesterday, the President said land reforms and indigenisation and empowerment policies signified total independence.

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Government is also working to ensure the youth – who form the country’s and Africa’s significant population – are empowered, he added.

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“Indeed, political independence without economic empowerment is hollow. It is imperative therefore that the dream of Africa’s founding fathers of achieving economic independence be realised.

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“I am proud to say that our country is an example of efforts to see this vision being fulfilled. Through the historic Land Reform Programme, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Policy and now the current economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, Zimbabwe is indeed a shining example of what it means to be a free country which is in total control of her abundant natural resources, and in pursuit of sustainable socio-economic transformation for its people.

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“This year’s theme: ‘Celebrating the birth of Gushungo, the icon of Zimbabwe’s revolution and champion of youth empowerment’ once again demonstrates our revolution’s two major phases, namely, the liberation struggle, and the struggle for economic independence for our people in general, and the youth in particular.

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“My life has been advancing these causes. Even as we fought the war of liberation and the illegal sanctions imposed on our country by our detractors, we were and still are guided by the same revolutionary principles. It is gratifying that other African countries are beginning to believe in the total emancipation of the people, who are in total control of their natural resources. Through my role as AU Chair, the Pan-Africanist flame will no doubt be reignited and re-energised.”

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On youth empowerment, the President said: “Youth empowerment forms a pillar of our holistic goal to empower the nation. It exists side by side with our sustainable development goals, such as gender equality, poverty eradication, employment creation, skills development and education, among other key development indicators.

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“As a country, we have made progress in youth empowerment, as evidenced by the various interventions made by our Government. These include, but are not limited to, the education-for-all policy, Presidential Scholarship and Cadetship Scholarship Programmes in local higher and tertiary education institutions.

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“Other public/private partnerships have, since independence, empowered most of our people in general and the youth in particular.”

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President Mugabe said Government is planning to establish at least one vocational training centre in all districts.

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The strategy seeks to cater for students’ varying aptitude levels and skills.

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“Since some young people do well in the arts and sport, Government has set up the Ministry of Arts, Sports and Culture and is in the process of developing a National Sport Policy.

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“In line with the mandate to ensure youth development, a whole Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment has been created to ensure that this is achieved. The Ministry seeks, among other things, to facilitate youth employment creation, skills development and high moral standards in the youths.

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“This should be achieved through National Service Training which aims to inculcate discipline, patriotism, selflessness and self-sacrifice.”

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He added that a paradigm shift was required to realign the school curriculum with national aspirations of creating employers rather than employees.

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“We believe this should go a long way in producing a production-orientated education, which encompasses both academic and technical skills, required in a real job scenario, and in real life situations.

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“At party level, youths have been given an increased role in political decision-making process. Apart from being in our party structures as leaders, more young men and women are now in our Parliament, with a few in the Executive Arm of the State. We also would like to see more youths playing a more vivid and increased role in owning the means of production in the various sectors of our economy, especially agriculture, mining and tourism.”

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He urged youths to shun immoral and life-destroying behaviour.

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“Our youths should be responsible and disciplined, in addition to having ambitions to do great things for the nation and their families. Hence, we condemn in the strongest terms the increase in drug, alcohol and substance abuse among our youths.

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“Without discipline, surely, our youths will be doomed. We want to see moral empowerment advocacy taking centre stage. Through a morally sound youth, we can be assured of an economically empowered society.”