Tsvangirai calls for unity, pledges to rebuild country

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Harare - Morgan Tsvangirai, sworn in as Zimbabwe's first Prime Minister on Wednesday, has pledged to rebuild the country and called for unity of purpose among its people to ensure the success of the transitional government in dealing with Zimbabwe's many challenges.

In his first public address as prime minister, a post newly created through an amendment to the Constitution in order to form a government of national unity, he said there would be no turning back on the political agreement the country's top political parties had entered into.

"There can be no turning back on the political agreement. We know it is not a perfect agreement but it is a workable one," he said on Wednesday to the applause of thousands who braved rain to witness the historic moment for the country.

"It will take time, commitment and unity of purpose to rebuild our country," warned Mr Tsvangirai, who added that without national healing, there could never be progress in confronting the seemingly insurmountable challenges Zimbabwe was facing.

He said the transitional government would prioritise democratisation first, deal with the humanitarian crisis, beginning with the cholera outbreak and food crisis, and ensure the rejuvenation of the economy, which was once one of the most robust in Africa.

"The economic collapse has caused many people to flee the country and seek menial jobs elsewhere for which they are over-qualified," he noted.

Serious efforts, he said, would also be made to deal with problems in the health and education sectors.

Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downward slide for the last decade because of a number of crippling political and socio-economic challenges.

Mr Tsvangirai further pledged to promote a free and democratic society and rid the government of corruption, said the transitional government.

However, he said this could only succeed with the support of the region, the African Union and the international community.

He applauded the international community for the assistance it has rendered Zimbabwe to date in dealing with its most pressing humanitarian crises.

Mr Tsvangirai said that as Prime Minister he would ensure the separation of party and government business. "We must look at the problems facing Zimbabweans first," he said, adding that transparency and openness, beginning with the leadership of the government, would ensure its success.

Mr Tsvangirai and two deputy prime ministers, Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a splinter faction of the prime minister's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Thokozani Khupe, had earlier on Wednesday been sworn in as part of the fulfilment of the agreement made last year to form an inclusive government.

Mr Tsvangirai said starting this month all civil servants would be paid in foreign currency in a move aimed at cushioning workers against hyper-inflation. He said civil servants were the backbone of the government, hence the need for the all-inclusive government to urgently address their concerns.

"By the end of this month all civil servants will start receiving their salaries in foreign currency until a situation where we are able to sustain ourselves," he said, adding that most civil servants, such as nurses, soldiers and the police, had in recent years stopped going to work as their salaries were not enough to cover their daily needs.

Mr Tsvangirai also urged all civil servants, particularly teachers, who had downed tools in protest over meagre salaries, to report for work on Monday as the transitional government would address their needs.

He said everyone must play a part and support the all-inclusive government to ensure that the power-sharing deal signed by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the two MDC factions was a success.

Mr Tsvangirai was sworn in by President Mugabe -- in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980 -- at State House here. Regional leaders and the international community witnessed the historic event, which is expected to help turnaround the country and bring stability to Zimbabwe.

Shortly after the swearing in, regional leaders who included Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, King Mswati III of Swaziland and former South African president Thabo Mbeki rose to the high table to congratulate the three leaders.

The party leaders were now expected to put together a 31-member Cabinet, with ministers expected to be sworn in by Friday this week, according to a timeline set for them by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which helped negotiate the power-sharing deal.

Earlier, Zimbabwe 's ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) that the swearing in of the three leaders was a milestone development not only for Zimbabwe but for the SADC as well.

"This is a historic occasion for Zimbabwe," Moyo said. "We owe deep gratitude to South Africa."

Through Mbeki, South Africa facilitated the long and intermittent negotiation process between the Zimbabwean political parties, leading to the signing of a power-sharing agreement in September last year.