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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Mugabe promises farming boom
President Mugabe addressing Independence rally in Harare
Mugabe says the West is destabilising Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has vowed to end food shortages, provide jobs and end foreign exchange problems by boosting agricultural output on farms confiscated from whites.

He said his government would maximise efforts to get agricultural production going among the 250,000 black families given land under his land reform programme.

The white man is here as a second citizen, you are number one, he is number two or three - that must be taught to our children

President Robert Mugabe

Marking Independence Day with a speech to thousands in Harare, he said that white people were now "second citizens" in Zimbabwe and it should not be forgotten.

Zimbabwe is currently suffering its worst-ever economic crisis, with unemployment at a record 60%, inflation at an all-time high of 112% and interest rates of 70%.

Hundreds of businesses have closed, foreign investment has dried up, Western governments have frozen aid and over three million people are in danger of going hungry.

Mr Mugabe chose on Thursday to focus on his land seizure programme.

"The soil that we walk is ours - every grain is ours," he said.

"The white man is here as a second citizen: you are number one. He is number two or three. That must be taught to our children."

Call for unity

The celebrations in the capital, which included a fly-past by military jets, were marred briefly when a flame of remembrance the president was trying to light was blown out by a strong wind.

Zimbabwean woman in Harare
Zimbabwe is currently suffering its worst-ever economic crisis

In his speech, the president also accused Western powers of seeking to destabilise his country after last month's controversial elections, saying he would bow to no-one but God.

"There is an imperial bid by hostile countries of the West to erode our electoral democracy and qualify our independence," he said, without naming any country.

Mr Mugabe's election win has been branded "daylight robbery" by his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai and rejected by many Western powers.

But the 78-year-old former guerrilla, who also marked 22 years in power on Thursday, said he was willing to work with all political forces in the country for peace and national unity.

"Let us work to be one. Avoid quarrels, avoid fights, concentrate on the building of our nation," he said.

See also:

09 Nov 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe editor walks free
12 Apr 02 | Africa
MDC challenges Zimbabwe poll
10 Apr 02 | Africa
No breakthrough at Zimbabwe talks
06 Apr 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe police break up demos
20 Mar 02 | Africa
Mugabe rival charged with treason
03 Apr 02 | Africa
Mediators seek Zimbabwe deal
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