25 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Zwambila Hails President's Education Policy

Sydney, Australia — Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia Ms Jacqueline Zwambila has hailed President Mugabe for spearheading an education policy which enabled the country achieve the highest literacy level in Africa.

Speaking as the first invited guest on a programme dubbed "The Ambassador Series" organised by the Australia Africa Business Council (New South Wales Chapter) here last week, Ambassador Zwambila resolutely defended the indigenisation and empowerment policy.

The ambassador said she was aware that many Australian investors had adopted a wait-and-see attitude because they "have been given a wrong sense of insecurity" with respect to Zimbabwe's indigenisation and empowerment policy.

"The policy is designed to empower the ordinary people of Zimbabwe over their country's natural resources through equity sharing with the investor," she said.

Turning to the recent visit to Australia by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, she said the minister had told senior Australian government officials that the indigenisation and empowerment policy "has been deliberately misunderstood".

Ms Zwambila said contrary to false reports in the Western media, the policy "is not expropriation or nationalisation of foreign companies".

"You never hear those words in Zimbabwe."

Before inviting the ambassador to the podium, president of the Australia Africa Business Council Mr Roger de Robillard said the Zimbabwean ambassador to Australia had been chosen by his organisation to be the first guest speaker on the Ambassador Series because this year, 25 percent of Australia's aid to Africa went to Zimbabwe.

"There must be something interesting happening in Zimbabwe for us to see these sorts of statistics," he said.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Zwambila blamed "international sanctions and the global economic crisis," for the decline of Zimbabwe's economy in the last decade.

She also blamed the "absence of lines of credit" for the shrinking of the manufacturing sector to levels as low as 8 percent over the last 10 years.

Ms Zwambila described Zimbabwe as a highly competitive investment destination, adding that the country registered 5,7 percent growth in 2009, 8,1 percent in 2010, 9,3 percent in 2011, while the projection this year has been revised downwards from 9,4 percent to 5,7 percent due to "prolonged dry spells in some parts of the country".

The ambassador hailed Zimbabwe's infrastructure as the major contributor to the resi-lience of Zimbabwe's economy "under the difficult conditions that we have experienced".

After outlining the incentives offered by the Government to foreign mining investors, namely the flat rate income tax of 15 percent and a duty exemption period running up to five years for all capital goods related to the mining sector, the ambassador took a few questions from the floor.

She was firstly asked about "the electoral problem" where the delegate wanted to know if there was "any assurance that Mugabe will not win again," and how she would explain "the conflicting interests" in the inclusive Government.

She answered by saying the mandate of the inclusive Government was to stabilise the economy, usher in a new Constitution and reforms towards a level political playing field.

"As far as I know, those processes are all within their timelines and progress has been made. We will have elections next year and the people of Zimbabwe will determine the winner," she said.

The ambassador, who recently caused a diplomatic storm in Harare after attending a function for ex-Rhodesian soldiers here, nearly caused a scene after the meeting when she confronted this reporter with harsh words.

"All I want to do is to work for my country, but you people always write bad things about me," she fumed.

She made reference to a 2010 story which quoted a letter written by Canberra-based embassy staff to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs claiming the envoy had stripped to her undergarments.

Ms Zwambila accused this reporter of being part of a "wide conspiracy of newspapers" bent on discrediting her.

Particularly mentioned was one online paper owned by Zimbabweans resident in the UK.

After the intervention of some Zimbabwean delegates, the ambassador cooled down and had group photos taken with some of the Zimbabweans present, including this reporter.

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