Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has marked his country’s 32 years of independence by saying the policy of locals receiving a majority stake in foreign-owned firms is going ahead. Morgan Tsvangirai remains opposed.
Diverting from his usual fiery and long speeches, President Robert Mugabe marked Zimbabwe's 32 years of independence from the United Kingdom with a conciliatory address. But he did not backtrack on his indigenization policy which has split the country's three-year-old coalition government.
"The implementation of the indigenization and empowerment policy continues to gather momentum through the implementation of various programmes," Mugabe said at the event held at Harare's biggest stadium.
Under the indigenization policy, all foreign-owned firms operating in Zimbabwe are called on to give up the majority of their shares to black Zimbabweans. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party are totally opposed to the policy, saying it scares away investors.
Tsvangirai remains opposed
The day before Zimabwe's independence celebrations, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told journalists that he was against the idea of linking the anniversary celebrations with support for indigenization.
Tsvangirai argues that the indigenization policy is another ploy by Mugabe's Zanu-PF party to acquire wealth cheaply.
"There are people who want to perpetuate the old culture of looting and self-aggrandizement clad in the misleading name of indigenization," Tsvangirai said.
Indigenization is one of the many issues that Mugabe and Tsvangirai have disagreed on since the establishment of the country's fragile coalition government in 2009.
Elections likely this year
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai (right) have headed a fragile coalition since 2009
Also at the independence celebrations, Mugabe said he wanted to form a committee to draft a new constitution to expedite the process so that polls can be held this year.
Mugabe backtracked on his earlier plans to hold elections without a new constitution, as had been required by regional leaders. However, he did say he wanted elections to be peaceful.
The 88-year-old spoke for about 50 minutes, often faltering and slurring his speech at times.
Mugabe did not refer in his speech to reports about his alleged ailing health. He returned from Singapore last week, where he has been several times in recent months to receive medical treatment.
Author: Columbus Mavhunga, Harare / al
Editor: Susan Houlton