“We rightly deserve to celebrate our thirty-five years of independence, the past three-and-half decades which have seen us resolute in consolidating and safeguarding our independence, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations…”

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President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet thousands of people who thronged the National Sports Stadium for 35th Independence Anniversary yesterday - Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

President Mugabe and First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet thousands of people who thronged the National Sports Stadium for 35th Independence Anniversary yesterday – Picture: Believe Nyakudjara

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Honourable Vice President, Comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa and Amai,

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Honourable Vice President, Comrade Phelekezela Mphoko and Amai,

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Honourable President of the Senate, Mai Edna Madzongwe,

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Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda,

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The Honourable Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku,

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Honourable Ministers,

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Honourable Members of Parliament,

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Service Chiefs,

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His Worship the Mayor of Harare, Mr Bernard Manyenyeni,

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Families of Heroes of the Zimbabwe Liberation Struggle,

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War Veterans, War Collaborators, Ex-Detainees and Restrictees,

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Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

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Esteemed Foreign Guests and Visitors,

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

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Comrades and Friends.

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It is with a great sense of joy and national pride that I welcome you all to the thirty-fifth Anniversary of our country’s independence and sovereignty. Today, bound together by our shared national identity, we stand together, as Zimbabweans, in solid unity, regardless of our political affiliation.

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To a large extent, the celebrations that today are going on in the different parts of Zimbabwe, attest to our ability, as a people, united by a common destiny, to protect our much-cherished freedom.

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We rightly deserve to celebrate our thirty-five years of independence, the past three-and-half decades which have seen us resolute in consolidating and safeguarding our independence, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations.

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The war of liberation has taught us that nothing valuable and precious comes on a silver platter.

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On the road we moved after independence, we lost, both physically and ideologically, many friends and colleagues, but that has not deterred us. We have remained principled, focused, and solidly united.

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We continue to forge ahead.

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I, therefore, warmly and sincerely, congratulate everyone of you on this auspicious day of our Independence.

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Makorokoto. Amhlophe.

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I also wish, at the same time, to thank all our all-weather friends, China, Russia and several others who, after supporting us in the liberation struggle, have continued to do so throughout our 35 years of independence. Thank you, and thank you most heartily.

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In pursuit of efforts to improve our people’s quality of life, our trademark as a Government since Independence, Government has, since 2013, begun to implement the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, (ZimAsset). ZimAsset seeks to provide, simultaneously, an enabling investment climate, a growing economy, employment, social equity, social transformation, and an empowered society.

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Already, there is a growing number of businesspeople and investors, from the Region and Continent, and across the globe, who are willing to support and partner us in seeing to the success of ZimAsset. This is a positive signal indeed, which we should capitalise on.

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It should, nonetheless, be noted that, the complete success of ZimAsset lies more in its implementation, than in any excellently worded theory.

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Fellow Zimbabweans, we have, by now, learnt, albeit in a painful way, the true meaning of climate change. While the early rains had given us hope of a good harvest, as has persistently happened in previous years, I must say, many parts of the country, unfortunately, succumbed to a prolonged dry spell, thus putting a large dent on our efforts to achieve national food security.

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We require little persuasion, if any, to accept that we need to develop a national irrigation policy to counter the persistent droughts that are so frequent, and are clearly caused by climate change. I, nonetheless, want to assure all our citizens that Government is putting in place contingency measures to ensure that no one will starve.

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As we look ahead to the next agricultural season, we hope for better rains, and that there will be a better state of preparedness. Already, under the More-Food-for-Africa Programme, Government has acquired a vast array of agricultural equipment and tractors from Brazil, for use by smallholder farmers, on a cost-recovery basis.

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The programme, which is promising to be the largest mechanisation programme by Government so far, shall be launched soon. This thrust should be complemented by measures to reduce the cost of local inputs, especially fertiliser, in order to render local agricultural production more competitive.

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We are pleased to observe that our economy is steadily on the path to recovery, having registered in 2014 a growth rate of 3.1 percent. The growth was largely driven by better performance in mining, agriculture and construction. However, the 2014 Budget implementation process experienced increased expenditure pressures, against low revenue collections.

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The expenditure pressures were largely driven by high employment costs. As a result, Government faces challenges in funding developmental programmes. As part of rectifying this state of affairs, Government is engaging in ways to reduce the bloated public service wage bill.

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Further to that, Government will continue to monitor and strengthen the performance of State enterprises, in order to improve service delivery and reduce the burden on the fiscus.

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Given the prevailing circumstances, it shall be necessary to interrogate the mandates of the various enterprises, and this should determine the decisions we make concerning the enterprises. To this end, I wish to commend the World Bank for putting forward US$6 million in support of the parastatal reform programme.

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But we also observe that the manufacturing sector underperformed in 2014, and remains subdued in 2015.

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This is caused by an array of challenges which the sector is persistently experiencing. These include, but not limited to, antiquated plant and machinery, inflexible labour laws, influx of cheap imports, high cost of production, and the prevailing liquidity constraints.

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To ameliorate the recurrent problems, the World Bank, in partnership with Government, will soon launch a US$6,5 million Business Enabling Environment Programme, which seeks to improve the business operating environment, aimed at consequently raising business productivity by injecting competitiveness.

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In the mining sector, Government has begun the consolidation of all diamond mining companies in Zimbabwe, into one entity. In that entity, Government will have 50 percent equity, whilst private investors share the remaining shareholding. This should enhance the supervision and accountability in the operations of this vital sector of the economy.

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Gold production by our artisanal miners is expected to rise, following the availing of a US$100 million support facility for the sector.

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To encourage value addition and beneficiation in this sector, Government has secured the services of four reputable diamond cutting and polishing companies, while measures are put in place to set up a local base metal and platinum refinery.

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This will help to boost revenue earnings and employment generation for the country. Exploration work, under the US$3 billion Great Dyke Platinum Investments Project by the Russians, is progressing well, with full-scale implementation expected around the end of 2016. In the tourism sector, the country is currently basking in the glory of numerous accolades, having been listed among the fifty-two Must Visit Destinations for 2015, alongside countries such as South Africa, Tanzania and Morocco.

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On 4th June 2014, the country received The Best Tourist Destination for 2014 Award from the European Tourism and Trade Council. Zimbabwe was also awarded the Best Cultural Destination. The sector’s growth should be further boosted by ongoing expansion of the Victoria Falls Airport, which is nearing completion.

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The country’s current power supply situation remains unstable, mainly due to frequent breakdowns at Hwange Power Station. Government is, however, pursuing several projects to increase internal generation capacity in the country.

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Cases in point include construction of the 300 Megawatt Kariba South Extension Project, which commenced on 10 November 2014, and is expected to be completed by 10 March 2018, the 600 MW China-Africa Sunlight Energy Project due to be implemented soon, and the Sino-Hydro 600 Megawatt Hwange Expansion Project, is expected by the second quarter of 2015.

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In pursuance of the Government policy to stimulate rural development in order to improve the quality of life for our people, more than 400 rural institutions were electrified in 2014, thus bringing the total number of institutions electrified by 31 January 2015, to 7 984.

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We urge all our urban centres to emulate the City of Harare, which has taken the lead in the installation of solar power along some of its major inner city roads.

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I wish to note, with satisfaction, the completion of the rehabilitation and widening of the 823km Plumtree-Bulawayo-Harare-Mutare road, which now awaits commissioning. I also want to acknowledge the completion of several bridges in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Manicaland.

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Work towards the implementation of major road construction projects, covered under co-operation agreements with China, is also making steady progress.

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As part of the Youth empowerment initiatives, the Training for Enterprise Model in Vocational Training Centres has been introduced to help address the problem of high youth unemployment levels in the country. In 2014, 11 242 youths were equipped with technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills through the Integrated Skills Outreach programme.

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Again, in 2014, 13 444 youths were involved in voluntary community development projects under the Youth Build Zimbabwe programme. We will continue to expand these and other related programmes, as resources become available.

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I wish to note that some 720 women’s groups have so far received funding, to the tune of $854 766, through the Government-sponsored Women’s Development Fund.

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The projects were funded for women’s projects in mining, agro-dealership, honey production and processing, garment making, leather products, crafts, fruit vending and value addition. It is in Government’s vivid plans to continue to politically and economically empower women in all ways possible.

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In order to boost assistance to vulnerable children, Government will devise means to increase funding for the Basic Education Assistance Programme (BEAM). Through the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer Programme, 53 121 vulnerable, food-insecure, and labour-constrained households in the country’s 20 poorest districts, were assisted, at a total cost of $16,7 million.

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As part of Government efforts to bring the Zimbabwean citizenry into a “knowledge society”, Community Information Centre (CIC) projects have been established at Murombedzi and Maphisa, while more will soon be completed at Rusape and Gutu Mupandawana.

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On the health service front, I am pleased to note that all the country’s major hospitals have now been re-tooled with state-of-the-art theatre equipment, procured under the US$89 million loan facility, secured from the China Exim-Bank. This development means that major medical operations, such as the open-heart surgery and kidney transplants, may be done locally, while the cost of some of the specialist services, which had all along been the preserve of private institutions, is expected to be eventually reduced.

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However, the remaining challenge is that of the shortage of specialists in key areas. We should endeavour to produce such specialists locally.

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I am indeed humbled by the honour bestowed on Zimbabwe, by our Region and Continent, through my appointment to Chair both Sadc and the African Union. As Chair, we will, inter alia, push for the industrialisation of the Region and Continent, through enhanced value addition and beneficiation of our resources, as already agreed to by the Sadc and the AU.

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We also urge other progressive partners to unite with us in our fight against poverty, hunger, disease and social inequality. It is our view that the Agenda 2063 enunciated by the African Union, will form a strong development platform for Africa in its quest for the realisation of the dreams of our Founding Fathers.

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Let me applaud our security forces who have remained resolute in defending our sovereignty and peace within our borders. On the international scene, they have continued to make us proud. More recently, our military personnel acquitted themselves very well while on their deployment to the Equatorial Guinea under “Operation African Pride”, during the 2015 African Soccer games, and they did equally well, while on the Sadc mission in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

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As we celebrate our Independence, it is incumbent upon us all to remain steadfast in our efforts to promote the country’s peace and stability.

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Indeed, true patriotism and concern for our country and its people, should bid us to channel our collective energies towards the fostering of peace and, a united front in defence of our sovereignty and our hard-won independence.

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We can never afford to take our Independence for granted. Let us, therefore, in speech and conduct, at all times, affirm the theme of our national anthem: “to see Zimbabwe emerge as a strong and prosperous nation.”

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I want now to express our sense of shock and disgust as we abhor the incident that happened in Durban where some five or six Africans were burned to death deliberately by some members of the South African Zulu community. We understand it was a protest against the influx into South Africa of or by citizens from neighbouring countries.

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The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way cannot be condoned by anyone and whether these are followers of the Zulu King Zwelithini or the followers of some other misled members of the South African community, we say on our own behalf and on behalf of Sadc, as indeed on behalf of the African Union, that must never happen again, never happen again in South Africa or any other country.

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Our own African people on the African continent must be treated with dignity.

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If there is any issue arising from influx of Africans into any country, surely that can be discussed and measures can be taken and taken amicably to address the situation. We are glad that President Zuma has expressed his abhorrence, just as what we are doing, at what happened. He has done so in regards to that incident, assuring us and assuring other people on the African continent that this is not the South African way, but it is the way of misguided South Africans. We take it like that and we are glad that there has been this denunciation by the government of South Africa.

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On our part, we have, all the same, put in place measures to bring back those of our people in South Africa, who want to be brought back now.

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Many of these measures have been taken by a group of our ministers, working together, and transport has been laid on in South Africa to bring them to the border and from the border, road transport to bring them into the county so that they can go to their homes.

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I want to thank all our public servants for the support they gave to the Government, support which has seen us go through the year in peace and harmony, go through the year in achieving some of our programmes. We have maintained peace, indeed.

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We have done much as what was afforded by our financial capacity.

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I want to say, through the Public (Service) Commission, thank you, thank you civil servants.

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At the same time, I want to make it clear that the reports in the newspapers, that bonuses were being withdrawn . . . it’s not Government policy.

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The Cabinet did not approve that at all and the Presidency never, never was consulted on the matter.

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We were never consulted, the three of us, and that is myself and the Vice Presidents. And we say that is disgusting to us and it will never be implemented at all.

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So, let the civil servants not be down-hearted; that will not happen.

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The rules are that when Government bestows a benefit on civil servants, that benefit cannot be withdrawn because it has become a right. That is there in the rules, and our rules handling the governing of public servants.

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When they are given a benefit, we cannot reverse it at all. It has become their right and that is what we stand by. So, your bonuses will come to you.

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Once again, I say, Happy Birthday Zimbabwe,

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Happy 35th Independence Day Anniversary,

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Long Live Zimbabwe,

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Long Live our Independence,

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Makorokoto,

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Amhlophe,

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Congratulations,

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I thank you.