PRESIDENT Mugabe says his stay in power is influenced by the desire to prevent regime change in the country being fronted by the United States of America and her Western allies. Addressing delegates at Fort Hare University's centenary celebrations in Alice, South Africa, yesterday, where he received a standing ovation upon his grand entrance into the main hall as well as when he was invited to address, President Mugabe said the West continued to meddle in African affairs through NGOs funded by France, Britain and the USA.
"It has been a long struggle to prove that we are also equal people and that we are also human beings. Besides all our efforts, the West still continues to try to run our affairs in Africa. Francophone and Anglophone (countries) are continuing trying to undermine our systems. Thousands of NGOs supported by France, Britain and America are there, with America openly saying they can change regimes.
"In Zimbabwe, they said they will have regime change, and I said never. I am stuck there because I want to prevent regime change," said President Mugabe to wild applause from the delegates.
He said African universities like Fort Hare should churn out products that truly represent what the elders sought: to make the continent totally free.
"We want universities to produce students who become leaders who are courageous to ensure equality for everyone. Equality for all is not political, but economic equality. Equality is not when you have land and myself I have nothing, you have big businesses and myself being viewed as a labourer and worker looking for employment. This is not equality and should go.
"I know that young people are becoming impatient and will make this go," he said. President Mugabe said Fort Hare University was a cradle of anti-colonial ideology as well as a source of African intellectualism. "I was academically born here. It is here where I was transformed. It is here where I truly discovered my African identity," he said.
Zimbabwe has maintained strong ties with Fort Hare University through the Presidential Scholarship Programme established in 1995 to help students from less privileged backgrounds to have university education.
A total of 3 010 students have completed their studies at the university, with the majority of them contributing significantly to Zimbabwe's economic growth. President Mugabe said it was his desire to see the programme continue despite the dwindling numbers as more students enrol at local universities.
"Although we have reduced the number of students being enrolled here, we will maintain the scholarship fund as a tribute to what Fort Hare has done to Africa. It has special education that motivates students. It has true Africanism history and that is the history that we want and that we have become part of it," he said.
President Mugabe called for the acceleration of gender equality on the continent, with education of the girl child. President Mugabe is one of the surviving alumni of the university which was at one time home to the late national heroes, Advocate Herbert Chitepo, Dr Samuel Parirenyatwa and Cde George Si- lundika.
The colourful anniversary celebrations were marred by student protests. The students who had promised to disrupt President Jacob Zuma's address picketed outside the hall singing. Police maintained a heavy presence and ensured that the programme proceeded without any chal- lenges.
Speaking at the occasion, President Zuma hailed Fort Hare's legacy of producing great leaders, not only for South Africa, but Africa as a whole. "Fort Hare has produced some of the greatest leaders in the country and beyond our borders and it is this success that we are celebrating today. It was an instrument of liberation. This institution has produced five Heads of State, a remarkable achievement," he said.
The event was also graced by the chairperson of African Union, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said Agenda 2063 puts Africa and its people first. She said there was need to revolutionalise agriculture to eliminate hunger on the con- tinent.
President Mugabe was accompanied by Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Dr Chris Mushohwe, who is also the director of the Presidential Scholarship Fund, and other senior Government officials.