Youth, women must be empowered - Mugabe

2015-04-29 17:46
President Robert Mugabe. (AFP)

President Robert Mugabe. (AFP)

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Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe opened a SADC summit on regional industrial growth on Wednesday with a call for the empowerment of youths and women - but no mention of the xenophobic violence that hit parts of South Africa this month.

Mugabe, who is the current chairperson of SADC, told heads of state gathered at a plush hotel in Harare: "We feel greatly honoured to host you this time in Harare, the Sunshine City."

"In our noble march towards an industrialised SADC, we should never forget that our women and our youth are the backbone of our economies," Mugabe, 91, said.

"They are without doubt our future. We should leave no stones unturned in our efforts to empower them," the longtime Zimbabwean leader said, adding in an unusually pensive mood: "We live for our youths, don't we?"

The xenophobic attacks in Durban and Johannesburg that have left at least seven dead and thousands displaced are not on the official agenda of Wednesday's summit. But they are no doubt uppermost on the minds of many at this summit - and are likely to be discussed, Zimbabwe government officials say.

Zimbabwe alone has repatriated nearly 900 nationals from Durban in the wake of the violence.

In his speech, Mugabe emphasised the need for value addition to raw products and said it was essential that the region work out financial mechanisms to fund industrial growth.

"We cannot expect those who benefit [from southern Africa's raw products] to fund our efforts," he said.

Heads of state went into closed-door meetings shortly after 11:00.

Previous worries over funding for the summit appear to have been overcome.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said in a tweet: "As the extraordinary Sadc Summit in [Harare] gets underway it is notable Zim has truly reclaimed its geopolitical space in the region & beyond!"

"During the height of the regime change onslaught Zim for some 15 yrs didn’t host such occasions as this extraordinary Sadc Summit!" Moyo added.

Mugabe and his government maintain that the West, working through the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, is responsible for the southern African nation's political and economic problems since 2000.

Mugabe on Wednesday appeared to be in good health, despite his advancing years. He has been in power in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

Mugabe led the gathering in a minute of silence for the late Tanzanian army general Hashim Mbita, saying: "When the Almighty gives us a dose of life the measure does run out, according to his plan."

Mbita died earlier this week, aged 74.

Read more on:    sadc  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  xenophobia  |  southern africa

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