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Mugabe Says Zimbabwean Economy Improving - 2004-07-20


Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has opened the last session of parliament before a general election next March. Mr. Mugabe said the economy had begun to turn around.

In his address to parliament, Mr. Mugabe said land reform had produced better crops this year, and that Zimbabwe would be able to feed itself.

Zimbabwe has dispossessed nearly 4,000 white commercial farmers during the past four years and given their land and property to landless blacks as well as the elite of his ruling Zanu-PF political party.

The United Nations said last month that Zimbabwe would need to import about one-million tons of grain because so little food had been grown last season.

Mr. Mugabe said the recently reformed central bank had been pivotal to the country's economic revival, and pledged to continue to fight corruption.

On proposed reforms to the election system, Mr. Mugabe said a new independent election commission would be established to run all future polls. He did not provide details of who would direct such a commission nor what its powers would be.

At present, all elections are run by the office of the Registrar General who is appointed by President Mugabe. The President also has powers to change electoral laws without passing them through parliament.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said his party would only support new electoral laws designed to deliver fully free and fair elections. He said Mr. Mugabe had been pressured by the international community, in particular African countries, to reform the present electoral system before a crucial regional summit next month in Mauritius.

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