politics & economy

Zimbabwe: President Hands $1m Cheque to AU

Tuesday, 04 July 2017

Addis Ababa -- President Mugabe yesterday presented a $1 million cheque in proceeds from the 2015 cattle donation he pledged towards capacitation of the African Union Foundation as he pressed the call for the AU to be self-financing.

The President made the donation during the official opening of the 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit here.

Presenting the donation, President Mugabe said he had received support from Zimbabweans to expand his initial 300 cattle he had pledged to the foundation at a fundraising dinner on the margins of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015.

AU Commission chairperson Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat received the cheque worth $1 million from President Mugabe who received a round of applause from fellow Heads of State and Government attending the summit.

Addressing delegates to the AU session, President Mugabe said the 24th Assembly, which he presided over as chairperson of the continental body at the time he made the donation pledge, was dominated by debate on alternative and innovative ways of financing the AU.

He kick-started the process by pledging 300 head of cattle from his personal herd.

President Mugabe said as an African and farmer, a donation of cattle came natural to him, "given that our continent is rich in cattle and cattle are held as a store of wealth".

"When I returned to Zimbabwe and informed my party (Zanu-PF) and people of this pledge, they said to me, 'Comrade President this is a very innovative idea, for a very noble cause, and we would like to be a part of it.' They, therefore, joined hands and mobilised more cattle, over and above my personal pledge," said President Mugabe.

He said the AU Foundation chief executive Mr Dumisani Mngadi visited Zimbabwe in May and witnessed first hand some of the cattle sales.

"I was most gratified that this noble cause had resonated well with my party and people who made it possible for my initial pledge to be more than doubled," said President Mugabe.

"I am aware that this humble gesture on our part has no universal application, but it demonstrates what is possible when we apply our minds to the most urgent task before us, of finding alternative and innovative ways of funding our Union, in particular our Agenda 2063.

"As I have said before in this Assembly, unless and until we can fund our own programmes, the African Union will not be truly our own."

President Mugabe said the historic decision was taken in Johannesburg, "to progressively increase our assessed contributions to the African Union so that we can, in the next five years, finance 100 percent of our operational budget, 75 percent of our programme budget and 25 percent of our peacekeeping budget, is the beginning of the restoration of our dignity and integrity as a continent".

President Mugabe said it was never going to be easy for the continental body to wean itself from the donor dependence syndrome.

But there was need to forge ahead for the sake of the present and future generations and his contribution was a symbolic step in that direction, he said.

"And so today, as I honour the pledge I made almost a year and a half ago, I would like to challenge all of us here present, and the African Union Foundation for the development of this great continent of ours," said President Mugabe.

"Together let us build our continent brick by brick, stone by stone until we achieve 'the Africa we want' as envisaged in our blueprint Agenda 2063."

President Mugabe got praise from neighbouring South Africa, which highlighted that African solutions only lie with Africans themselves.

During his AU chairmanship from January 2015 to January 2016, President Mugabe advocated the bloc's self-financing, as nearly 60 percent of its budget is donor-driven.

In 2014, the AU budget was $278 million, 44 percent of which was financed by member States.

Themed "Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth," the two-day AU session ends today.

Credits: Nduduzo Tshuma (The Herald)