PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday said Bulawayo’s industrial base had shrunk to scrapyard level and said the water crisis bedevilling the city should be addressed.
Speaking during his seventh inauguration in Harare, Mugabe said although industries have collapsed countywide, the Bulawayo industrial state was worrying.
“Our cities are dying. Bulawayo was once a thriving industrial hub in the country, but now it has become a sorry industrial scrapyard,” he said.
During his campaigns, Mugabe pledged to revive industry in Bulawayo, blaming European Union and US sanctions for the city’s demise.
However, the jury is still out on how he will address the situation, as many blame his successive governments for the failure of industries in Bulawayo.
Estimates say more than 100 companies have closed shop affecting more than 20 000 employees.
Further worsening Bulawayo’s plight are perennial water shortages affecting the city, with the local authority introducing a 72-hour water rationing regime each week.
On the water crisis, Mugabe said it was unacceptable for urban areas, particularly Bulawayo, not to have continuous running water.
“Taps are running dry as we have erratic supplies of water especially in urban centres and we risk outbreak of diseases,” he said. “The situation is worse in Bulawayo.”
Mugabe pulled out all the stops to ensure that his swearing-in ceremony was a grand affair, hosting it at the National Sports Stadium and inviting several Heads of State, a far cry from previous such events.
The Zanu PF leader declared yesterday a public holiday to ensure thousands of his supporters filled the stadium for his party, with analysts saying this could be his last inauguration.
Mugabe brushed aside accusations that he had won a rigged election, insisting that African observers had declared the poll as credible.
“Sadc, Comesa, the African Union, the ACP, the United Nations, as well as many nations of goodwill have praised the elections here,” he said.
“We welcome this positive spirit, this encouragement which should see us do even better, move forward faster as a nation.
“But like in all elections, there will always be bad losers, real spoilers; it is a price we pay for electoral democracy, isn’t it?”
The veteran ruler said the conduct of last month’s elections had left countries hostile to his government with no excuse for maintaining the sanctions.
Magnanimous in victory, Mugabe said he was grateful to his Global Political Agreement (GPA) partners for the work they did in coming up with a new Constitution.
“I owe nothing but praise and respect to my GPA era partners, who are also my fellow countrymen.
“I am referring to former Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and much later Professor Welshman Ncube.
“We have worked together initially compelled by GPA protocol.
“We found each other and proceeded to produce the current Constitution, but it was the Constitution to help us mould the way of life we have chosen for ourselves on this our land, our country together and for as long as our nation subsists, so will elections and the opportunities they offer also subsist.”
Despite lauding his former GPA partners, Tsvangirai insists that the election was stolen. While Ncube concurred, but unlike the former Premier, he did not launch court challenges, insisting this would be futile.