‘A duty to serve the people’

Harare – South Africa’s Former President, Thabo Mbeki, has challenged African leaders to deliver on their promises to citizens of the continent as a matter of duty.

He was speaking at the inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference in the resort town of Victoria Falls last week.

Commenting on Zimbabwe’s vast diamond potential, Former President Mbeki said: “Both the Zimbabwe political leadership and the world political powers owe a sacred obligation to the peoples of Zimbabwe and Africa to ensure that this country’s diamonds serve as the people’s best friend!

“I sincerely hope that all of us gathered here at this World Heritage Site, Mosi oa Tunya (the original Tonga name of the site later renamed Victoria Falls), will take the decisions we must, which will enable the peoples of Zimbabwe and Africa to acquire the benefit of the heritage of a better life, and thus defeat all ill-intentioned attempts to inject into the Kimberley Process objectives inimical to its original and noble purposes.

“As Africans we can have no objection to the goal that Africa must succeed. As these Africans, including as Zimbabweans, we cannot have any other objective than that Zimbabwe re-establishes herself as one of Africa’s preeminent pioneer counties.

“You, Zimbabweans who are with us today, have an obligation to live up to this task, and therefore to honour what Africa has done to help guarantee your own right to self- determination, in Africa’s own interest.

“Whatever your faults which as Africans we share with you, nevertheless we demand of you that you must, at all times, act in a manner that upholds and demonstrates our character as true and noble Africans.”

The Former President said the continent must remain vigilant that “the export of African diamonds does not open or widen yet another window to the immensely pernicious illicit outflows of capital from Africa”.

He emphasised that all loopholes must be closed to ensure there were no illicit or purportedly legal resource outflows that resulted in Africa’s continued impoverishment.

Focusing particularly on Zimbabwe, he added: “In this regard, we really hope that this natural resource, Zimbabwe’s diamond deposits, will be used genuinely to benefit the masses of the ordinary people.

“This must also mean that this country’s political leadership, including all the parties which serve in the current (coalition) government…must absolutely ensure that the diamond mining industry is not governed by a predatory elite which uses its access to state power to enrich itself, against the interests of the people as a whole, acting in collusion with the mining companies…

“In this context, the government would obviously have to put in place very strict measures to combat any corruption that might arise, related to the diamond industry.”

Former President Mbeki also explained why SADC had stood in solidarity with Zimbabwe on the matter of illegal Western sanctions on the country.

“For many years now, our region, through SADC, has called for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, which regrettably has not happened.

“Our region made this call not to advantage the ruling party in Zimbabwe, but to improve the socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe, in favour of the people as a whole.”

He reserved words of praise for Zimbabwe’s decision to stall its land reform programme in 1990 so that any developments would not negatively affect the ANC’s struggle in South Africa.

“As an outstanding act of African solidarity, the Government of Zimbabwe decided on this delay expressly to facilitate the then on-going negotiations in South Africa , from 1990 onward, concerned that nothing should be done in Zimbabwe which would frighten the white population that it would oppose our own country’s transformation.”

November 2012
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