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Zimbabwe Presidential Challenger Outlines Platform


Zimbabwe's former finance minister Simba Makoni, who was expelled from the ruling ZANU-PF Tuesday after announcing his candidacy in next months presidential election, has spelled out elements of his election manifesto. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Zimbabwe.

Simba Makoni, who formally signs on as a presidential candidate Friday, has invigorated the political environment, especially in the main urban centers of Harare and Bulawayo.

Makoni offered a message of renewal at a news conference in Harare, where he spelled out a vision of a Zimbabwe under his leadership. He said he would end the tradition of government hand-outs and allow people to reassert their independence from the state.

"I will not promise to do this or to give this to the people, instead I will promise to facilitate and enable the people to do things for themselves, to do things for their families, their businesses, to do things for their communities and indeed do things for this lovely country of ours," he said. "We will remove the impediments that inhibit the people of Zimbabwe doing things for themselves, we will facilitate people to remove themselves from the bondage of dependency."

Makoni said Zimbabwe's crisis is not irreversible, but that a new administration, which he said he will win with a landslide victory, would establish an authority for national re-engagement, renewal, and reconciliation.

President Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms in 2000, which economists say is the main reason for the collapsed economy and the world's highest inflation rate. For decades commercial agriculture exported food to the region and produced more than 40 percent of Zimbabwe's annual foreign currency revenues. Now millions depend on food hand-outs.

Makoni said that 2008 is the eighth consecutive year of agricultural failure.

"The land is a strategic national resource, let me also say our land is not unique, it is not different from the land of any other country or nation, our land is not an ornament for beautification, our land it is not a fetish for reverence, the land is a source [of] empowerment, it is an asset for income generation and eradication of poverty, our land is a tool for social development and empowerment," he said.

He said Zimbabwe needs land reform more urgently than ever before, and that seizure of land to redress the wrongs of the colonial era alone did not represent agrarian reform. He said land acquisition and redistribution needs to be undertaken in an equitable and fair manner.

None of the senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF have come out in support of Simba Makoni, but sources close to him insist there is such support. Some politicians who pulled out of ZANU-PF as it clamped down on freedoms have said they will stand as independent candidates for the legislature.