23 July 2003

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai, MDC MPs Attend Presidential Address

Harare — MDC legislators yesterday ended their boycott of presidential addresses to Parliament and remained seated in the chamber listening to President Mugabe's speech during the official opening of the Fourth Session of the Fifth Parliament.

Opposition leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai also attended the ceremony from the Speaker's Gallery.

MDC parliamentarians have been boycotting President Mugabe's addresses to the House, refusing to recognise his re-election.

Cde Mugabe won last year's presidential poll beating Mr Tsvangirai by more than 400 000 votes.

President Mugabe urged legislators to take the business of the House seriously and commended MDC lawmakers for attending the official opening of the Fourth Session of the Fifth Parliament of Zimbabwe.

He was speaking at the traditional luncheon hosted by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing marking the opening of the new parliamentary session.

Some MDC MPs, including acting Harare mayor Ms Sekesai Makwavarara, attended the luncheon.

In the evening, some opposition MPs also attended a reception hosted by the Speaker of Parliament, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, marking the opening of the session.

The President said he hoped the new session would see Zanu-PF and MDC working together.

"I am glad that today there was that realisation that Parliament must hitherto be an honourable institution to which we belong. I hope the session that is yielded by the opening of this Parliament will see us work together.

"I can only say to the brothers and sisters in opposition that to have a difference of opinion on an objective basis is honourable but to have difference of opinion on the basis your conscience disagrees with is dishonourable in the extreme. They should be able to say that of Zanu-PF," he said.

Back at Parliament, Mr Tsvangirai sat in the Speaker's Gallery with MDC national chairman Mr Isaac Matongo, and shared the same bench with war veteran Cde Joseph Chinotimba, as they pensively listened to President Mugabe's address.

Below them, in the legislative assembly, MDC MPs also sat throughout Cde Mugabe's address.

Mr Tsvangirai said in a statement afterwards that his party now wanted a peaceful political engagement with the Government.

"Our national executive tasked the leadership to do all it can to clear the air for a peaceful political engagement," he said.

"We decided to invest all our energies in search for a permanent and lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis."

Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity Cde Nathan Shamuyarira said the MDC had now realised there were people who elected them to Parliament who did not want them to boycott.

"The people are against boycotts and they are also against sanctions the MDC is calling for," he said.

This is the first time that Mr Tsvangirai has come into the Speaker's Parliament to listen to President Mugabe speak since he became MDC leader at the party's formation in 1999. This is also the first time that he has visited Parliament since the 2000 election that brought members of his party into the House.

Cde Mugabe said MPs played a dignified role in society and that was the reason they were addressed as honourable.

"But those who are honourable must not do dishonourable things. Those who are lawmakers must not be breakers of the law."

He said it was understandable that sometimes people erred but they should always behave honourably.

"So we have to distinguish between the political course of organising ourselves towards power, it's demands, the flexibility it has.

"We may call each other all kinds of things outside Parliament in political campaigns. I don't know whether there is any ugly abusive word which has not been said against me in some quarters."

But he said such name-calling had limits even outside Parliament.

"Parliament should not be a joke, it's a House of honour, a House of dignity. It has rules (and) those have got to be observed."

Cde Mugabe said the opposition should desist from thinking that if it called for sanctions against the country, the hardships would affect Zanu-PF members only.

He said the hardships would affect everyone in the country.

The President said political parties could differ on ideologies and ways of governing but should never differ on national interest and the decision of "who we are".

"I am glad that there is now rising within the conscience of all of us that sense of common or is it a common sense of belonging or a sense of common belonging whichever way you want to put it.

"As we stand here you may not like our faces aah kamudhara kachembera, aka hazvina mhosva (you may say I am old man, it does not matter), but I am still your mudhara. Let's work together."

The President said the Fourth Session was being opened against the background of the successful conclusion of the fast track resettlement exercise and the appointment of the Presidential Land Review Committee to assess the land reform programme.

He said while the A1 resettlement scheme had been a success,the A2 scheme had not been that successful and the review committee was expected to come up with recommendations to address the anomalies of not only the scheme but the entire land reform programme.

Cde Mugabe reiterated that those who got more than one farm would be required to surrender surplus land.

He said the review committee would also look into the fairness and justness of the resettlement programme and there would be no sacred cows in correcting cases of unfairness and injustice.

The President hailed established indigenous commercial farmers that were helping newly resettled farmers saying if all farmers had that spirit, Government's burden would be lessened.

He also commended the role played by chiefs and other traditional leaders in identifying beneficiaries of the A1 resettlement scheme.

Cde Mugabe lambasted white commercial farmers who opposed the land reform programme saying their behaviour showed they remained Rhodesians.

He said the Government would not force them to be Zimbabweans but would work with those who were willing to co-operate.

The Government would not be intimidated in facilitating for people to take ownership of the country's resources which rightly belonged to them.

He said the country had gone through the grill of the liberation struggle and would not fear the greatness of Britain and the United States who were demonising the Government for embarking on land reform.

"There are some who are saying this old man has ruined things for us but what comes to me and what should come first to every revolutionary is the issue of the ownership of your land," said Cde Mugabe.

The President said some people doubted him and the Government when they said British Prime Minister Tony Blair was lying when he said Zimbabwe's problems stemmed from issues of rule of law, democracy and governance when the core of the problem was land.

But following Britain and the United States' invasion of Iraq on the basis that it had weapons of mass destruction, which are still to be found, it was now clear the two countries lied, Cde Mugabe said.

He said some people even said he was being abusive for calling Mr Blair a liar but the British leader was failing to justify their invasion of Iraq.

"His (Mr Blair) own people are saying he is a liar and who are we to deal with a liar?"

Cde Mugabe said US President George Bush was convinced after his recent visit to Africa that the continent was united after South African President Thabo Mbeki told him that Zimbabweans were capable of solving their own problems.Meanwhile, the Airforce of Zimbabwe (AFZ) added a new spectacle to the official opening ceremony by introducing new Mi35 helicopter gunships during the traditional fly past.

Hundreds of people who thronged the Africa Unity Square adjacent to the building leapt with joy when the three helicopters passed in a diamond formation, flying from west to east.

The gunships were followed by four jet fighters flying in the same direction also in diamond formation.

Among the four jet fighters were two new Mig 23s that were being introduced for the first time.

AFZ traditionally uses three hawks during the fly past.

AFZ director of operations Group Captain Biltim Chingono said the new aircraft were being introduced to the public.

"It was just a way of introducing the aircraft to the public," he said. "We were taking advantage to introduce them so people will not continue to speculate.

"We just wanted to show the public what we are capable of. The aircraft were first introduced at the firepower demonstration in the Midlands last weekend."

Group Capt Chingono said the fly past was the presidential salute offered by AFZ.

Other sections of the armed forces do their presidential salute on the ground.

President Mugabe arrived at Parliament Buildings around 12 pm accompanied by the First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe in an open black Rolls Royce.

They were accompanied by police mounted on horseback and were greeted by ululations by members of the public, among them Zanu-PF supporters.

Soon after the President's arrival, the whole area was engulfed by the sound of heavy artillery as the Zimbabwe National Army fired the 21-gun salute shortly after the fly past.

President Mugabe then inspected the Guard of Honour mounted by the Presidential Guard, with the army band doing a rendition of Nehanda Dzika Mudzimu, a popular traditional song from the late 1960s.

President Mugabe then entered the House to deliver his speech followed by judges of the High and Supreme Courts, the Speaker of Parliament Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, Cabinet Ministers and MPs.

The National Anthem was sung once more when the President finished addressing the House just before he departed for State House.

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