The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: President Stresses Commitment to Peaceful Polls

ZIMBABWE'S political leadership is committed to the holding of smooth and peaceful elections as the country's internal political processes proceed smoothly, President Mugabe has said. Speaking at a banquet he held in honour of visiting United Arab Emirates Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi at State House yesterday, the President said Zimbabwe had vast investment opportunities that could be exploited in a conducive political environment.

Sheikh Saud arrived in Harare yesterday afternoon and was met at the Harare International Airport by President Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Cabinet ministers, service chiefs and other senior Government officials.

He arrived to the beat of the traditional Zimbabwe drum from two dance groups.

The Sheikh received the highest honour for a visiting Head of State, including a 21-gun salute.

He also inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Presidential Guard.

Addressing guests at the banquet, President Mugabe said Government was committed to fostering investment relations with the people of Ras Al Khaimah.

He said while Zimbabwe was resource-rich, it came short on the beneficiation of its resources.

"It would thus be natural, logical and strategic for us to forge a relationship with your Emirate since we have a lot of synergies which are complementary.

"For that reason, it is the desire of the Government and people of Zimbabwe to tap into your rich knowledge and expertise in the management and utilisation of natural resources.

"We want to see economic co-operation between our two sides grow to higher levels across all the sectors of our economies. The relationship, if well-calculated, should see mutual benefit accruing to both parties," he said.

President Mugabe said Zimbabwe had a well-diversified economy.

"Zimbabwe is largely agro-based and this creates numerous opportunities for investment in agriculture which include horticulture, cotton, tobacco, supply of agricultural produce."

He said Zimbabwe was also open to investment in irrigation and mechanisation.

He said Zimbabwe's mining sector was endowed with a vast range of minerals.

"This sector is also currently in a growth phase, buoyed by strong international market prices and increasing demand from developing nations such as China and India."

The President said Zimbabwe had, besides the Victoria Falls, several natural tourist attractions such as unique rock formations, flora and fauna as well as man-made attractions.

"Just like you, we have an impressive archaeological heritage and rich cultural history. The sector has immense growth potential."

He said Zimbabwe's manufacturing sector was well-diversified, possessing strong linkages with other productive sectors of the economy, especially agriculture.

"This diversified industrial base therefore provides potential investors with a number of investment opportunities . . . Above all, Zimbabwe has the necessary educated and skilled workforce.

"For all these opportunities to be exploited there is need for a conducive political environment. On that score, I would like to say that Zimbabwe enjoys peace and tranquillity," he said

President Mugabe said major political players in Zimbabwe have agreed to a new draft Constitution, which will be subjected to a referendum on March 16, followed by general elections.

In his response, Sheikh Saud said he was in Zimbabwe to explore business opportunities for the Emirates.

"We have come here to extend our hand to all of you people of Zimbabwe . . . We have come here not to teach you, but rather put to you what we have learnt . It is up to you to take what you like," he said.

Sheikh Saud said it was important for Zimbabweans to work together for the prosperity of the nation.

He said the United Arab Emirates population had learnt to replace hatred with love, fighting with peace.

Sheikh Saud said such a phenomenon was not a dream but a reality in the United Arab Emirates.

As such, he said, United Arab Emirates had become a hub of several economic activities.

"Now we have more than 10 million tourists, our country is now a place to make business, work and a place to find hope," he said.

The Sheikh said he was prepared to partner local business communities for the development of Zimbabwe.

"We want to see our friends in Africa experiencing the same success we have. Your country is blessed with everything you want - beautiful scenaries, lovely places and lots of minerals. Nothing is impossible if we put our minds together. There is no magic solution but step by step," he said.

The banquet was attended by Vice President Mujuru, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, Senate president Edna Madzongwe, diplomats and several Cabinet ministers.

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