Zimbabwe getting ready for economic takeoff, says Mugabe
Harare - President Robert Mugabe delivered an extremely short state of the nation address on Tuesday, claiming that struggling Zimbabwe was readying itself for a "major economic take-off".
His speech lasted just 25 minutes and was punctuated with jeers and heckling by members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and cheers from ruling Zanu-PF MPs.
Mugabe announced a 10-point economic plan, which included clamping down on corruption and encouraging private sector investment.
“Overall economic performance to date indicates modest growth,” said Mugabe, whose words were then drowned out by heckling MDC MPs.
Economic hardships have been growing in Zimbabwe on the back of a sudden surge of job losses, estimated to top around 25 000 since mid-July. Aid agencies indicated that at least 1.5 million people need food aid this year due to failed harvests.
Mugabe admitted that climate change had affected weather patterns, hitting agriculture hard. This, he said had contributed to a decline in economic growth forecasts, from 3.2% to 1.5%.
Massive capital injections
He, however, said tourism would grow by 5% this year, “reflecting growth in confidence in Zimbabwe as a peaceful tourist destination”.
“Zimbabwe is already positioning itself for major economic takeoff, in keeping with Zim-asset, which requires massive capital injections and rapid implementation," he said. Zimasset is the ruling Zanu-PF party’s economic blueprint for Zimbabwe. Many critics say it is unworkable.
Mugabe said that his government has signed deals with China in several sectors, including roads, water, mining, tourism and agriculture.
He also vowed that the country would reform regulations to make it easier to do business.
“We expect a clear and robust regulatory framework to be urgently put in place in order to create a one-stop investment centre that streamlines processes and procedures,” Mugabe said.
“This is a high-priority matter, for which those responsible will be held to account.”
Ahead of this speech - Mugabe's first state of the nation address since 2007 - Zimbabweans took to social media to express their doubts that their president would offer any hope.
In a statement the opposition slammed Mugabe’s speech, saying it showed the 91-year-old was out of touch with reality.
“As widely expected, Mugabe failed to rise to the occasion,” said Luke Tamborinyoka, a spokesperson for the MDC. “The crisis [in the country] is bigger than the capacity of him and his government.”