Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe on Tuesday
vowed to pursue controversial indigenisation policies with "renewed
vigour", in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by the opposition
after disputed elections.
Opening the new session of parliament, 89-year-old Mugabe
vowed to redouble efforts to put foreign firms under national control, saying
Zimbabweans must not be "bystanders" in running the country's
"The indigenisation programme is to be pursued with
renewed vigour," the veteran leader said, in the first session following
the contested 31 July election.
"Indigenisation and empowerment legislation will be
reviewed and strengthened during this session," he added.
The past decade of Mugabe's 33-year rule has been marked by
land seizures from white farmers and a controversial indigenisation law, first
implemented in 2010, that forced foreign companies to cede 51% shares to
So far it has been applied to mines only. Retailers and
banks are next in line.
Critics say the law benefits Mugabe's allies and scares away
foreign investment at a time when the country is grappling with high
The president's speech was boycotted by lawmakers from the
main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, who have branded
Mugabe's election win a sham.
Mugabe "has no right to open parliament and we can't
participate in the ceremony presided over by him," the party's chief whip
Innocent Gonese said.
Zimbabwe's electoral commission declared Mugabe the winner
of the July election with 61 percent of the vote, extending his rule by up to
But the vote was rejected by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as
"a massive fraud". He has claimed that large numbers of voters were
turned away in opposition strongholds, and he has also criticised the chaotic
state of the voters' roll.
Outside parliament on Tuesday scores of Mugabe supporters,
clad in Zanu-PF party t-shirts, sang songs of praise and beat traditional drums
in honour of the octogenarian.
Mugabe, who arrived at parliament in a black Rolls Royce
accompanied by his wife Grace, said in his address that he was ready to mend
fences with Western countries.
"We stand ready to work with even those who before were
at odds with us," he said.
"On the other hand, we will continue to demand the
immediate and unconditional removal of sanctions imposed by some arrogant
Some Western nations imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe after elections
in 2002, which Western observers said were rigged to hand Mugabe victory.
In the same speech, Mugabe acknowledged the country's
economy was in bad shape and said the mining sector should be used to shore it
"Our economy continues to face numerous challenges
characterised by declining production levels, high costs of production, company
closures and high unemployment," he said.
"The mining sector is poised to play a greater
catalytic role in the country's industrial development process."