MALAWIAN President Mrs Joyce Banda jetted into the country yesterday afternoon on a five-day State visit during which she is scheduled to officially open the 54th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo on Friday. President Banda and her delegation were met at the Harare International Airport by President Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, senior Government officials and Malawi ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Jane Ngineriwa Kambalane.
Scores of Zimbabweans and the Malawi community resident here were also present to welcome President Banda.
She received a 21-gun salute and inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Presidential Guard.
Speaking at a banquet he held in her honour, President Mugabe said the Global Political Agreement was progressing well, crowned by the successful referendum that approved the country's new Constitution.
"Our progress in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement has been adversely affected by the unjustified and illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the European Union, the United States and other Western countries.
"While I would like to thank your great country and other Sadc countries for their unwavering call for the removal of these debilitating sanctions, our detractors have not shown any willingness to have them unconditionally removed," he said.
The President, however, said the country managed to soldier on and tamed inflation to single digit and registered positive economic growth.
He said the agriculture sector was performing well despite erratic rains and thanked Malawi for the food assistance it rendered.
President Mugabe described the trade fair as a platform for businesspeople and companies to showcase their products as well as network to explore broader trade and investment opportunities.
"The ZITF is also reputed to be one of the largest intra-regional trade fairs south of the Sahara. We therefore feel privileged and proud that you have found time from your demanding schedule to grace this important event on our calendar."
The President said Zimbabwe and Malawi shared common culture and history dating back to the colonial times when many Malawians came to settle in Zimbabwe.
"When Malawians gained nationhood in 1964, many Malawians already in Zimbabwe, decided to make Zimbabwe their home, and today they play important roles in the communities in which they live. This is evidenced in part by Malawian names that have been given to roads, buildings and even police stations in some of our suburbs."
The President said as time progressed, there were marriages in mining and farming communities.
"... A lot of Chichewa words have found their way into the local languages, to an extent that some of our young people cannot easily distinguish names that are of Malawian origin from Zimbabwean ones. This is how integrated we are. Many Zimbabweans now also speak Chichewa very well."
President Mugabe said Zanu-PF and Malawi had close ties when the country prosecuted the liberation struggle.
He said the party's first vehicle was donated by the Government of Malawi then under President Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
"We remember, with found memories and deep gratitude, the assistance that Malawi rendered to us during those difficult days. These profound shared historical ties tend to cement Zimbabweans and Malawians as one people. Indeed, the tall building, which is our Zanu-PF headquarters, was opened by Kamuzu in 1986 as he came to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement."
President Mugabe said the ties that bound the two countries were supposed to be developed deeper and help the people.
He said Zimbabwe and Malawi were supposed to co-operate in areas of trade investment and finance, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, mining, tourism, education and health.
"With both our countries committed to regional integration, I would like to pledge my commitment to working with you in furthering integration in Sadc and Comesa," he said.
The President welcomed the construction of a railway line linking Mozambique and Malawi.
He said the railway line would increase trade and accessibility to world markets for Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and the rest of the Southern Africa region.
President Mugabe said as the continent prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the African Union, there was a need for the leaders to rekindle the spirit of the founders of the continental organisation.
"This Golden Jubilee of our organisation should be an opportunity for us to step back and reflect on the achievements as well as the many challenges that we continue to face on our continent. It should be an occasion for us to see how we can fulfill the dreams of the founding fathers of our organisation and how to impart the legacy to future generations," he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, President Banda said challenges being faced by Zimbabwe should be solved by locals.
"May I report that I was in UK a few weeks ago and I made an announcement in a meeting that I was attending that President Mugabe had invited me to pay a State visit. I told them that I am going to be there because I believe that the problems in Zimbabwe should be solved by Zimbabweans themselves," she said.
She also urged parties to have a peaceful election like what happened during the referendum.
"I wish to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe for the greet maturity, the spirit of togetherness and the resolve to move this country forward regardless of any political difference. It is my sincere hope that the same spirit will prevail during the harmonised elections which this country is planning to hold later this year. The political and economic stability of this nation is of critical importance to Malawi and indeed the entire region as we put our efforts together to integrate our economies," she said.
President Banda assumed power last year following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika to become her country's first female president.
The late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika named Midima Road in Malawi after President Mugabe.
The road project was funded by the European Union (EU) that failed to stop the Malawian leader from honouring his counterpart despite protests from the West.
President WaMutharika was also married to a Zimbabwean woman, Ethel.