Editorial Comment: It is urgent, it is important, it is correct!

President Mugabe, as he oft does, wowed listeners with his two public addresses during his State visit to South Africa last week.

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On Wednesday, the gist of his address was captured in this sentiment: “We are part of Africa, part of the region we call Sadc, Southern Africa and what we do between us is to the benefit of our Sadc region, is to the benefit of Africa, is to the benefit of our people.

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“If we fail we are failing those people but in our environment we also want a political environment of freedom in which we are not interfered with by outsiders and we become masters of ourselves.”

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And then on Thursday, he succinctly captured the essence of the resource ownership-beneficiation-industrialisation thrust thus: “The agenda shall be a sustained agenda of adding value, but we must win the natural resources first and make them our own so that we produce from our own natural resources.

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“We must own the natural resources first, make them our own, hence indigenisation and empowerment. You indigenise, take (control of resources). There has to be, at the base of beneficiation, ownership by the people.”

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Simple and powerful. Vintage Robert Gabriel Mugabe. It should be borne in mind that last August when Zimbabwe hosted the Sadc Ordinary Summit at which President Mugabe was accorded the bloc’s Chairmanship, that meeting was convened under the theme “Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Value Addition and Beneficiation”.

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This was no slogan.

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Which is why President Mugabe immediately tasked the bloc’s Secretariat and appropriate ministers to start work on an industrilaisation strategy and roadmap. And he also said Zimbabwe would host an extraordinary summit on industrialisation, a meeting that will be held in Harare in less than a month’s time.

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The people of the region have become used to extraordinary summits being held to deal with political and constitutional crises that arise in member states. It is thus refreshing to have one right here at home to tackle a serious economic issue — perhaps the most pertinent of our times.

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As a consequence, March 2015 saw Harare hosting a Council of Ministers meeting where an interim report on the Sadc Regional Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap was presented by the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration.

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The ministers agreed that industrialisation, competitiveness and regional integration were the three main pillars on which the strategy would be anchored to achieve the following strategic objectives:

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Diversifying and broadening the industrial and export base of the region to increase trade and employment;

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Reversing decline in the share of manufacturing in GDP and employment;

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Accelerating growth and enhancing comparative and competitive advantages of regional economies; and

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Achieving major socio-economic and technological transformation at both member state and regional level.

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Overall, the strategy will feed into the objectives of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

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Oh, and President Mugabe also chairs the AU. Africans really have no choice in this matter: we must improve living standards.

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And we cannot improve living standards without industrialising our economies. And we cannot industrialise without local beneficiation of minerals, metals and agricultural produce.

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And we shall never ever beneficiate these resources in a meaningful manner if we do not first own them.

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This is something we should get our blood boiling about, because it is about our lives and the lives of our children.

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These things will not come on a silver platter. We must seize that which we must, claim our space, declare our right to develop ourselves without apologising about it. Albert Camus, the French philosopher, captured this inherent need to break free of the chains of the past when he said, “I rebel, therefore I exist!”

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We must rebel against being third class citizens on our own land.

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Post-colonial Africa has been like the rape victim who changes her behaviour after she has been violated and yet the brutal rapist continues acting the same as if nothing has happened.

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We cower in fear of confronting the rapist and adopt almost instinctive patterns of behaviour that keep us in bondage. Meanwhile, the rapist roams free, ready to rape some more.

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Zimbabweans, the people of Sadc and all Africans need to become fired up about these things and stake their right to a dignified life in industrialised societies in which we own and control our resources.

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President Jacob Zuma put it passionately on Thursday: “To me the struggle to liberate ourselves economically is a good struggle and we should be as angry as we were when we were liberating ourselves. We were prepared for anything in order to liberate ourselves politically, I think we should do the same (economically); it is u rgent, it is important, it is correct.”