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Ageing Mugabe salutes Zimbabweans’ economic resilience

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President Robert Mugabe used his state of the nation address Tuesday to praise Zimbabweans for showing “resilience” through economic troubles, but he avoided mention of the country’s controversial new currency.

Since last week, Zimbabweans withdrawing money from banks have received a portion of their cash in locally-issued “bond note” dollars instead of US dollars as the economy teeters close to collapse.

The “bond notes” have stoked fears of a return to the hyperinflation of 2009 when the original Zimbabwean dollar was rendered worthless, and the country adopted the US dollar.

“Our peace-loving people… have endured all manner of economic hardships,” said Mugabe, 92, drawling through some passages of his short 30-minute speech.

“I wish to commend them for the resilience, and urge them to cherish the peace and tranquility that continues to be the envy of many.”

The president, whose health is increasingly fragile, faced a surge of opposition street protests this year against his authoritarian regime.

The demonstrations were violently put down by the security forces, which have often suppressed dissent since he came to power in 1980.

“Let’s also thank our forces for the peaceful environment that we enjoy,” Mugabe said.

Some opposition lawmakers laughed as Mugabe concluded his speech without specifically addressing the economic crisis that has seen many Zimbabweans sleep outside banks to try to access their US dollar savings.

On Tuesday, he struggled through his address before being helped to walk out of the parliament chamber.

Despite his advanced age, he has avoided naming a successor.


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