Sata, elected Zambia President in September, was expected to be the high profile guest at the conference which will, among other things, endorse President Robert Mugabe as Zanu PF’s candidate for polls due early next year.
However, Sata confirmed he would not attend the conference during a meeting held Saturday with Mugabe on the Zambia side of the Victoria Falls resort.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said Sata would now be represented at the ‘highest level’.
“It was basically a bilateral exchange of views which also happened to be the two leaders’ first meeting since Sata took over as President,” Mumbengegwi said of Saturday’s meeting.
“It was a very good meeting where the leaders discussed a number of issues of mutual interest but I cannot go into detail.”
Meanwhile, Zanu PF national commissar and information Minister, Webster Shamu said the four-day event would confirm Mugabe as the party’s candidate for next year’s elections.
“We are going to reaffirm the position of our last congress in Mutare where President Mugabe was confirmed as the party’s sole candidate in any election between the last congress and the next,” Shamu said.
“The provinces have since affirmed that position at their respective inter-district meetings and we intend to focus our debate on other pressing matters such as indigenisation.”
Party chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo said the conference would also launch preparations for the elections demanded by Mugabe to replace the coalition government.
“We will chart methods on how to move fast in mobilising everyone with particular focus on young and female voters. This is a very key constituency that should be given the utmost priority,” Moyo said.
“We are not only interested in their vote, but also to have them play a significant part in the country’s economy through our programmes such as the Land Reform Exercise and indigenisation.”
Some 6000 delegates are expected to attend the conference, party officials said.
President Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart, Mr Michael Sata, on Saturday held their first meeting since the latter was sworn into office in September with the two leaders discussing various issues of mutual interest.
The two-hour meeting was held at the Royal Livingstone resort in the southern border town but details on the deliberations were not immediately available yesterday as the two leaders did not have a post-meeting media briefing.
The meeting came a day after Mr Sata hosted a luncheon for former United States president Mr George W. Bush and his wife who were in Lusaka to launch a campaign to fight cancer.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who attended the meeting, could not divulge details but said the engagement had been very congenial.
"It was basically a bilateral exchange of views which also happened to be the two leaders' first meeting since Mr Sata took over as president. "It was a very good meeting where the leaders discussed a number of issues of mutual interest but I cannot go into detail," said Mumbengegwi.
He, however, revealed that Mr Sata had confirmed that he would be represented at the highest level during the Zanu-PF Annual National People's Conference which kicks off in Bulawayo this week.
Before meeting Mr Sata, Robert Mugabe had addressed delegates to the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga) annual conference held across the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls.
Zilga is the representative body of all the country's local authorities and came into existence in February 2010 following the merger of the then Urban Councils' Association of Zimbabwe (Ucaz) and the Association of Rural District Councils (ARDC).
In his speech, Mugabe urged local government leaders in both urban and rural areas to prioritise service delivery to the people who voted them into office instead of expending their energy fighting for personal benefits and allowances.
"I am not saying councillors should not get appropriate allowances; far from it. They should, however, strive to ensure that they provide good service to citizens," said Mugabe.
He bemoaned the poor service delivery in the country's urban centres, particularly Harare and Chitungwiza, adding that despite limited resources, Bulawayo appeared to be better managed than the capital city.
"Zvino kana tichiona mabin ane mirwi ne- mirwi yemarara tsvina yave kuita makomo kumisika vekanzuru vanenge vakamirira kuti Hurumende iuye kuzotakura marara? Zvinonyadzisa. (When we see mounds of garbage forming little mountains at market places, will the local authorities be waiting for central Government to collect the refuse? It is shameful.)
"We want clean cities. Bulawayo is much cleaner and better organised than Harare. I recently visited Chitungwiza when some Chinese eye specialists came in and there was garbage and potholes everywhere. This does not attract tourists.
"Don't kill our cities, please. Don't kill our country," said Mugabe. He urged city councils to draw lessons on good urban planning from places such as Singapore, Malaysia and China, adding that there was a need to put effort into beautifying the country's cities by upgrading infrastructure and planting trees.
"I wonder if the local government people in Harare have ever thought of planting trees to beautify the city. The trees we have, the jacarandas, were planted by settlers. If you go east to places like Singapore, Malaysia and China, there is careful urban planning," said Mugabe.
He said the Zilga conference always afforded him the opportunity to interact with the local government fratenity, adding that it also provided a platform for various partners, including Government ministries and departments, to engage in healthy and lively interaction.
"Government therefore appreciates the key ‘enabler role' that the local government sector plays in national development by providing trunk infrastructure such as roads, health centres, water and sanitation facilities.
"In addition to facilitating activities of other sectors, local authorities are expected to assist Central Government translate the national vision into concrete deliverables to our people.
"It is therefore critical that local authority programmes, as informed by the Millennium Development Goals and guided by Central Government, should always seek to address development challenges such as poverty, gender inequality, hunger and disease," said Mugabe.
Mugabe said Zimbabwe had posted commendable achievements in various spheres in the first two decades of independence particularly in education, health, sanitation, food security and rural development.
These development gains had, however, been suddenly reversed following the imposition of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe by Western countries who were protesting against the successful Land Reform Programme.
He said contrary to assertions in the Western and local private media that the sanctions targeted only him and other senior Government officials, they had actually brought untold suffering to the vulnerable segments of the population.
"While the local government sector has not been spared of the crippling impact of the sanctions, to our credit and to the annoyance of our detractors, the sanctions have not broken our resolve and determination to continue our thunderous and revolutionary march towards the realisation of the cardinal goals of the liberation struggle."
Apart from land reforms, the other critical goal of the struggle was to economically empower the majority black population which had been marginalised in colonial days. Mugabe said the Government had embarked on a robust indigenisation drive that was meant to empower people through the Community Share Ownership Trusts scheme.
This would lead to communities deriving optimum benefits from the exploitation of natural resources found within their respective areas.
Mugabe said the indigenisation drive was neither a joke nor an election gimmick as claimed in some sections of the media. "They think we are that idiotic. We have got the land in the hands of our people and we now want the economy in the hands of our people. Hazvisi zvemahumbwe izvi (This is not child's play)," said Mugabe.
He called on the country's citizens to unite behind the goal of developing the nation and urged supporters of the different political parties to desist from violence.
"Let us work, all of us, for a Zimbabwe which we all can enjoy from Plumtree right up to Mutare and Chipinge. Let us be true owners of our country." The Zilga conference was also attended by Cabinet ministers Ignatius Chombo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, provincial governors and guests from Ghana, Togo and Botswana.
The Masvingo Mayor, Alderman Femias Chakabuda, presented Mugabe with a gift – a wooden carved kudu – on behalf of Zilga. – http://www.thezimbabwemail.comPost published in: News