‘Take care, your life is so dear’

We publish President Mugabe’s full speech at the Day of the African Child commemorations which coincided with the silver jubilee of the Junior Parliament at the City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday.

THE First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe

The Honourable Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa;

Honourable Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko;

The Honourable President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe;

The Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda;

The Honourable Minister of Provincial Affairs for Harare Metropolitan Province Mai Miriam Chikukwa;

The Honourable Minister of Youth Patrick Zhuwao;

Honourable Members of Parliament;

Senior Government officials here present;

Members of the Diplomatic Community here present;

The President of the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe Takudzwa Mhuru;

The Honourable Speaker of the Junior Parliament Juliet Rori;

Honourable Members of Junior Parliament;

Invited guests, comrades and friends.

With joy and excitement, we are here to commemorate the Day of the African Child and to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe.

May I congratulate the leadership of the Junior Parliament and indeed all Junior Parliamentarians and the Zimbabwe Youth Council for successfully organising the Junior Parliament for the past 25 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s commemoration and the silver jubilee celebration is under the theme “Appreciating, Discovering Zimcheer Entrepreneurs as a way of Accelerating, Protection, Empowerment and Equal Opportunity towards fulfilling the 2030 agenda of Sustainable Development of Children in Africa”.

This very long theme has been designed to have three main components that talk to the economic, political and social participation of young people.

I am advised that these three will be debated in three sittings in pursuance of the resolution of the 24th session of the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe.

Ladies and gentlemen, Guided by Section 20 of our Constitution, Government has taken measures to ensure that young people between the ages of 15 and 35 years are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment.

We have thus adopted a national youth policy that seeks to empower the youth through creating an environment which enables them to reach their full potential, economically, politically and socially.

In order to mitigate the challenges that our youths face in accessing venture capital and other forms of finance to upscale their business, Government has now approved the opening of a micro finance institution, through the issuance of an operating license for Twinstock Capital, as a step towards the establishment of a fully fledged Empower-Bank.

The micro-finance bank is set to build and upscale the operations of young entrepreneurs.

The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Ministry has also identified 39 385 young entrepreneurs who have created 93 692 jobs under the Zimbabwe Champions and heroes of the Economic Empowerment Revolution (ZIMCHEER).

Government realises the need to empower young people now, so as to upscale their skills and businesses, thus bringing them into the mainstream economy. Government also continues to explore avenues of integrating the youths in the mainstream economy through the inclusion of the youth in the four clusters if ZimAsset.

This will be achieved through anchor companies namely Youth Feed Zimbabwe (Food Security and Nutrition Cluster); Youth Shape Zimbabwe (Utilities and Infrastructure Cluster); Youth Employ Zimbabwe (Poverty Eradication and Social Services Cluster); and Youth Make Zimbabwe (Beneficiation and value Addition Cluster).

As we reflect on this theme, we cast our minds back at the investments we have made in our youths since the attainment of our independence.

In education, the Government has prioritised the extension of the education sector.

While in 1980 primary schools had nearly 1 235 994 pupils, it has now risen to over 3 million, representing a 244 percent.

Secondary schools enrolment in 1980 was 74 321 students and has now risen to 936 734, representing a 1 260 percent increase.

Our tertiary institutions have also drastically increased from one university in 1980 with an enrolment of just 2 000 to now nine state universities with a combined enrolment of 69 000. Teachers’ colleges and polytechnics indeed experienced similar phenomenal rise and this includes other tertiary and institutions made by churches.

In 1991 when Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights and Welfare of Children, we as Zimbabweans accepted to perform our part and we have since been doing our best.

Government therefore regards the development of our children as a very important programme for the country and also Africa in general.

This therefore has led us to the establishment of a Junior Parliament, an institution mainly for our youth and for their development so that as they act in this institution they will be training to be our future leaders, future ministers and for other walks in life. But Junior Parliament is also an important channel for Government to build young people on the progress, feedback in addressing their expressed concerns.

The children come with their concerns and expression in Parliament and then there is an interaction with the ministers and that way we get to know what our children feel and then what we can do in shaping and improving our system of education so it can then be suited to their own concerns and the concerns of nation naturally.

This Day of the African child which we commemorate through the Junior Parliament, as you know, is derived from the incident in South Africa that happened on the 16th of June quite a number of years ago when children who were demonstrating against apartheid were shot at and quite a number of them died.

I visited where they are buried and when you get there you really feel that apartheid was devilish and you feel also that those who did it cannot be forgiven, but they were forgiven and we still have the Afrikaners in South Africa recognised as a people.

It was their government which did it.

The children were demonstrating against the forced teaching of Africans in their schools, they didn’t want to learn Afrikaans, but the nationalist government was forcing everyone to learn Afrikaans.

So as a result, hundreds of African youths lost their lives at their hands, the hands of apartheid oppressors.

But as we reflect on that, I would like to urge you not to take your rights and freedom for granted.

I hope also in South Africa they are not taking their rights and freedom for granted.

And they should be given great respect from the government, the congress (ANC) there, but for us these rights and freedoms that we enjoy today are a product of a lot of innocent souls that lost their blood.

Shed by my cadres whose graves in some cases lie in Mozambique, others in Zambia, in Mozambique at Chimoio, Nyadzonya, Zambia Freedom Camp and other places.

Among the hundreds and thousands of people who died during the liberation struggle were children.

Those who died in the camps were not necessarily all fighters. Some of them were refugees, some were little kids that crossed over with their parents, some having left school but being too young to go for training. So they were in these camps, but the Rhodesians were merciless, they were bombing these with bombs.

However, we have said bygones are bygones, but we shall never forget these acts of brutality that were committed on us and our children, so we do not forget, we shall remember them.

So, do not take our freedom for granted.

We do not take our freedom for granted and we continue to respect naturally those of our cadres who are still alive for the fight that they put up and from their acts.

But as we reflect on that, we should derive the courage and determination also to look at Zimbabwe as a country whose independence was hard earned.

And as Government tries to develop our nation, you in school, others elsewhere perhaps working, all of us, every one of us must bear in mind all the time, constantly, that we who are alive are inheritors of the result of that struggle, the blood that was shed and so when we are at school we should take our schooling very very seriously because the advantage that you have is the advantage accruing from the sacrifices that were made by those who are gone, who sacrificed for our independence.

So we are happy when we see you committed as you are to go through your courses, to go through your learning so you can be keepers of our independence, keepers of Zimbabwe in every aspect of it.

There is therefore the legendary struggle that must always move your hearts, your consciences, speak of it just as we do the struggle of our ancestors, our ancestors in mind, anaKaguvi ana Nehanda Lobengula nevamwe vese.

Takamutsiridzwa pfungwa dzedu nezvavakaita takaratidzwa gwara rekutevera naMbuya Nehanda pavakati mapfupa angu achamuka, ende akamuka zvechokwadi. Kumuka kwavaireva ndekwekuti vana vachauya vachazonge vachirwisa mabhunu. Ndozvatakaita, saka imiwo toda kukusiirai nhaka iyoyo yeZimbabwe yakarwirwa ikafirwa. But for now we say don’t waste your time at school, be serious students as you finish your courses.

Choose where to go, what work to do. Some we hope will become soldiers, some of you, some will become policemen and policewomen, others will want to run businesses, still others will hold upper positions of administering the country as ministers, as performers in Government and I’m sure they will be many.

Government is not just ministers, it’s not just vaMugabe and his Cabinet.

Yes we are the executive, but there is also the legislature. So we are happy to hear that here are some lawyers already who have emerged from your midst. There is also the judiciary, the Cabinet, some of you I hope will end up in these three parts of Government.

May I congratulate our Ministry of Indigenisation on today’s program.

It has been enhanced in a manner that encompasses not just parliamentary program, but to include our program as youths in schools and I do hope that this in future will continue.

But we still want to see the aspect of Parliament continue in a much more distinct way. So I conclude by urging our youth to look into the future with hope, confidence and determination, knowing that the future is firmly in your hands.

You should be proud and confident knowing that you have a Government that has you at heart.

We can never say we are independent, we are free without putting that freedom and independence into practice and turning, as I have often said, our independence and freedom which was the objective as we fought the struggle, but now it’s not the struggle, that sense of fighting and we turn the freedom into developing our country.

We have to use it to develop our country and the development of our nation cannot happen without developing children, developing you as students so you can be our successors tomorrow.

I’m glad to always be exposed to a group of students every year who have distinguished themselves, yes those are perhaps the more intellectually gifted, but my happiness is greater when I realise that so many of our young people are at school and that so many children are enrolled at the right age in our schools and that is what delights us because it means all our people will emerge literate with some modicum of skills here and there.

Whether or not you perfected the skills of high nature, but at least they remain literate and we want every one of our children to reach at least 11 years of education that is at least ‘O’ level, but if they can get further and become degreed, be diploma holders, that is still better.

We have students sometimes losing their opportunities by being rough, not disciplined sufficiently and wanting to be immoral when they are still pursuing their courses.

Some get addicted to drugs, to drinking. Please, leave these killers alone, leave these killers alone. Even when you are grown up, mature and you have graduated, they will destroy your lives.

And I’m not just saying to you as students now but even as graduates tomorrow, as married people tomorrow.

Many have been destroyed by drinking, by drugs.

Many have been destroyed by immorality.

We have HIV, which has taken of quite a big percentage of our population.

Take care, take care, your life is dear, dear to you, dear to your parents and dear to us.

We need you, we love you, please keep alive.

The freedom we enjoy today is an opportunity to develop yourself, develop your country, guard it jealously, guard the opportunity that you have jealously.

We will continue to think of you, to work for you, to plan for you and plan for those also who come after you and that is the work that our Government is doing.

May you also respond to the work, respect your teachers, your parents, respect each other. That is the kind of students we have. Take your studies seriously. Your studies matter zvimwe zvose zvichatevera.

Kurai zvakanaka netsika dzekudanana pachenyu, kushandirana pachenyu, kuterera vabereki, kuterera murawo, kuzvipa munhu woga woga zvaanosungirwa kuterera kuti ichi neichi hatiite, ichi nechichi tinoita, saka unosungirwawo newe kuzviterera.

Thank you, it is now my honour and privilege to declare the 25th session of the junior parliament of Zimbabwe officially open.

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