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Mugabe to redouble indigenisation efforts

18 September 2013, 08:37

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 economy.

"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 Zimbabwean partners.

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 unemployment.

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.

High unemployment

Zimbabwe's electoral commission declared Mugabe the winner of the July election with 61 percent of the vote, extending his rule by up to five years.

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 Western countries."

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 up.

"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."



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