Russians to tell Zim story
Speaking during a meeting he held with 17 Russian journalists who are part of the delegation, Acting Minister of Information and Publicity Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said the truth would set Zimbabwe free.
Secretary for Information and Publicity George Charamba and other officials also attended the meeting.
“We believe this visit will enable you to judge for yourself about Zimbabwe. You will be able to tell the Zimbabwean story from a clear perspective. That will expose the lies of enemies of our country. Sanctions were imposed after we took our land and they lie that those were targeted against the leaders,” Mangwana was quoted in Wednesday’s issue of The Herald newspaper as having said.
He explained the history of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and the merits of the land reform programme that saw thousands of blacks being economically empowered.
Mangwana said Zimbabwe fought a protracted war to realise its freedom and independence and Russia played a big role by supporting the liberation movements in the country.
“We remain indebted to the Russian people for the efforts they gave for us to win our independence.
“We were fighting to regain land stolen from us by colonisers. In 1979, we were promised that we would get our land.
“We gained our independence in 1980, but for 20 years we waited for the fulfilment of that promise, but the British government broke the promise,” he said.
Mangwana said Zimbabwe then compulsorily acquired the land for resettlement and Western media started writing horrific stories about the country.
“The media portrayed a government that did not respect human rights, a government of bullying and raping, taking companies and a country in turmoil where there was no development at all,” he said.
The minister said the illegal sanctions were affecting the livelihood of ordinary people in the country and the economy as well.
“We don’t produce oil so we import every litre using foreign currency. We are not then able to supply sufficient fuel. We also import electricity and our industry is a net importer of materials needed to manufacture,” he said.
He said the country’s detractors also made sure that Zimbabwe did not get balance of payments support from lending institutions.
Tourists, he said, had also been discouraged from visiting the country and citizens of different countries had also been influenced against investing in Zimbabwe.
Answering a question from the journalists on what Zimbabwe would do in the event of an attack by its powerful enemies, Mangwana said: “We will fight to the last person if they attempt to attack us. We are not a country of cowards.”
He said in his opinion, he did not think that the international community would allow such bullying on people fighting for what rightfully belonged to them.
On elections, Mangwana said in line with the present Constitution, the presidential vote would be conducted in 2008 while parliamentary polls would be held in 2010.
He also told the journalists that the government was making moves to liberalise the electronic media sector and there were a number of newspapers published in Zimbabwe that were opposed to the government.
“We strive to solve our problems such as health, drugs and education. We have programmes to assist orphans, SMEs (small to medium enterprises), the disabled and others. We try with limited resources and this is why the country has remained intact,” said the minister.
He explained that previously over 70 percent of arable land had been in the hands of about 4 000 whites but the government had now acquired 80 percent of the land and redistributed it to more than 300 000 people.
“That was not nationalisation as such. About 800 white farmers are still in the country and some blacks are doing very well and agricultural production is going up. However, others still require finance and technical assistance,” he said.
Within the next five years, said Mangwana, agricultural production should be 10 times higher than levels attained by white farmers.
Mangwana said Britain sponsored the MDC with a view to reversing the land reform programme.
“The opposition say if they come to power, they will reverse it. This is why they have failed dismally to garner support and they now realise that the people are behind the ruling party,” said the minister.
Land covered by bilateral investment agreements, he said, was not affected by the land reform programme.
“We will comply with our commitments to such international agreements in full. Through the programme, we don’t touch any land bought for investment purposes. That land remains protected by the Constitution,” said Mangwana.
He said Zimbabwe was rich in natural resources such as gold, platinum, chrome, coal deposits and natural gas besides having good weather and fertile soils.
“Infrastructure is intact and, above all, there is peace and tranquillity.
“Despite the challenges, we have soldiered on and we are pleased to receive you as long-term friends who will help us to overcome our challenges,” said Mangwana.
He said Zimbabwe had also undertaken successful military peacekeeping operations in hotspots such as Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
The minister said Zimbabwe’s relations with neighbouring countries were good and the country had ties of solidarity with them particularly through the Southern Africa Development Community.
The Russian journalists were part of a 48-member delegation that arrived in the country on Sunday for bilateral meetings to implement investment proposals between Zimbabwe and Russia.
The week-long visit would also see the Russian journalists engaging in exchange programmes with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
The delegation comprises 31 businesspeople and the 17 journalists from Russian newspapers, television and radio stations.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono has been to Russia officially on two occasions. He has, however, chosen to be discreet about the purpose of his visits, making announcements only at the conclusion of agreements. ‘ New Ziana.