A speech by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was suspended from live television and radio broadcasting Tuesday amid threats from the main opposition party to disrupt the event. Zimbabwe’s parliament cut broadcasting before Mugabe began his speech after the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, said it would interrupt the president to protest against anonymous death threats to opposition legislators who had heckled Mugabe about the country’s sinking economy during his state of the nation address, according to Reuters.
Zimbabwe’s speaker of parliament, Jacob Mudenda, warned the opposition they would face contempt charges if they disrupted Mugabe’s speech. After broadcasting was suspended, the Movement for Democratic Change members sat quietly during the 25-minute speech while supporters of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party clapped and cheered.
"Let us, whatever our affiliations, political, religious, social, continue to believe in ourselves, to believe in our collective capacity, so as to overcome adversity and challenges that confront us, including unemployment," said Mugabe, who arrived at parliament in the capital Harare in a vintage black Rolls Royce car.
The 91-year-old leader, who has ruled for 35 years, also restated his promises to strengthen ties with Western lenders and vowed to overhaul economic policies to attract foreign capital as Zimbabwe suffers from an economic recession.
Chrstopher Mushohwe, Zimbabwe’s minister for youth, indigenization and economic empowerment, said in August the government would relax a black economic empowerment law forcing overseas firms to sell majority shares to locals, Reuters reported. The law, which Mugabe installed in 2000, has compromised economic growth and deterred investors. Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP was estimated to have contracted by a total of 50.3 percent between 2000 and 2008.
China, Zimbabwe’s largest economic partner, has refrained from committing to large new investment in the southern African nation due to financial woes at home. Other international lenders have also rejected Mugabe’s loan requests due to outstanding arrears. The Zimbabwean government currently owes the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other lenders about $9 billion.
Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote recently revealed his plans to invest $400 million in constructing a cement plant in Zimbabwe. He also said he intends to invest in coal mining and power generation in the country, Forbes reported.
Mining generates half of Zimbabwe’s export income and contributes about 17 percent of GDP. But Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has said even Africa’s richest man cannot save his country’s deteriorating economy.
”This country does not need $400 million but $15 billion to implement an actual economic turnaround program. Yes, if Dangote wants to bring his little monies to invest let him come, but the truth of the matter is that the country’s economy cannot be rescued as long as Mugabe maintains his grip on power,” Tsvangirai said Sunday, according to New Zimbabwe news site.
Mugabe became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe following the country’s independence in 1980. He then assumed the new office of president in 1987 after the position of prime minister was abolished. He has ruled the southern African country ever since.