The Herald (Harare)

11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Empowerment Programmes Not an Afterthought'

Pretoria — EMPOWERMENT programmes being carried out by President Mugabe are not an afterthought since it has always been his desire from his youthful days to emancipate fellow Africans, the President's former schoolmate has said.

Speaking after a two-hour meeting with the President here yesterday, Cde George Chaane, a veteran African National Congress legal advisor, said the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has lived up to his pledge.

Cde Chaane went to Fort Hare University in South Africa at the same time with President Mugabe.

He said President Mugabe remained an oasis of humility, despite having achieved most of the things he set out to do from his days at college.

Cde Chaane, who also taught in Ghana at the same time with President Mugabe and once shared a house with him in Zambia, said he was not surprised that his former schoolmate had risen to become a revered Pan-Africanist.

"Up to this day, President Mugabe continues to struggle for the emancipation of Zimbabwe and as someone who has known him since university, I am not surprised by what he has achieved and the passion with which he has done it," he said.

"At Fort Hare, he was one of the senior people we always looked up to. During those days, we spoke about a hell lot of things, among them was the way he had been treated by the missionaries back in his country.

"During one of those discussions, he told me that 'I am going to struggle for the freedom of my country'. So, I wasn't surprised when I heard that he had walked to Mozambique to join and lead the liberation struggle because the freedom of his country is something that has always been close to his heart."

Cde Chaane said President Mugabe's humility had left him "shocked."

"A number of times he has asked me to come to Zimbabwe, but I didn't come," he said.

"My fear was that he is a busy man, he has a country to run and I would probably see him for just five minutes and say 'Hallo Mr President' before leaving him to continue with State business.

"But that wasn't the case today. I was shocked. President Mugabe is still as humble as the days I was with him at Fort Hare and stayed in the same house with him at Chalimbana Teacher's College in Zambia.

"Being the concerned friend that he is, he kept asking about my life. He wanted to know if I was happy. When I told him I was content he remarked that I was still as humble as the days when I assisted political parties such as Zapu and the ANC during the struggle for independence."

President Mugabe, said Cde Chaane, spoke glowingly about his family, highlighting that the first daughter, Bona, was doing well in her chosen field of accounting, while the boys - Robert Jnr and Chatunga - are balancing the academic with a shared dream to play professional basketball.

President Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe were last night expected to attend the Orange Caf Africa Cup of Nations 2013 closing ceremony at a packed National Stadium in Johannesburg.

The closing ceremony was expected to precede the final between Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

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