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Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe Following Their Meetings

September 13, 1983

The President. I know that the press is very grateful that they're not out in the rain.

It's been a great pleasure to have had the opportunity today to meet with Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe. As the first Prime Minister of Africa's newest independent state, his wise leadership has been a crucial factor in healing the wounds of civil war and developing a new nation with new opportunities. Our discussions today have covered a wide range of topics, including our bilateral relationship and regional issues. We've spoken very frankly and in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We didn't always agree but have all gained much from hearing your views, Mr. Prime Minister.

I believe that our two countries will continue to cooperate on those areas where common concerns are shared and that we will come closer to an understanding on those issues where our views diverge. The United States and Zimbabwe have much in common. We both came to independence through a revolutionary process. We are both multiracial societies. And our constitutions offer protection to all our citizens, black and white, ensuring their political freedoms as well as their individual rights.

I'm glad to say that since Zimbabwe's independence relations between Zimbabwe and the United States have been very good and, strengthened by this exchange of views, will become even better.

We look to Zimbabwe for leadership in southern Africa. Blessed with natural resources, a hard-working, multiracial population, and a spirit of national reconciliation, Zimbabwe can provide a firm foundation of economic viability and political stability and serve as an inspiration in its part of the world.

Mr. Prime Minister, our talks today have confirmed that we also share a desire for peace and stability in southern Africa, and I know that we both look forward to a time when all countries there can achieve a level of amity which will allow them to work toward economic, social, and political development, free from the threat of attack from whatever quarter.

The ultimate responsibility for resolution of their problems, however, rests with the states of the regions themselves. And here, Mr. Prime Minister, you've taken a leading and constructive role. I know that you'll be meeting with a number of leaders in all walks of American life during your stay here in Washington and elsewhere in our land. I'm sure they will benefit as I have from your thoughtful views on our bilateral relationship as well as on regional and global issues.

I'm delighted that you accepted our invitation to visit Washington, and I look forward to meeting you again.

The Prime Minister. Thank you.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, may I on behalf of my delegation, on behalf of the Government and people of Zimbabwe, express to you on this historic occasion of our visit—the first such by the head of government of the Republic of Zimbabwe—express to you our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for that support which the United States has given us all along the way. And this support starts, really, from the time we were still struggling for our independence, as the United States offered itself as party to the negotiations that were underway to bring about a democratic order in Zimbabwe.

We got pledges from your government, from your predecessors, that upon attainment of our independence the United States would not be found wanting in extending to Zimbabwe that amount of aid the United States was capable of extending to it to enable the young state to attend to those problems created by the war which the young country would feel necessary to attend to.

And so here we are, a young state that yesterday was only a toddler but today is able to do a little more than it was able to do yesterday. And this is because of the amount of assistance—I think the United States contributes the largest amount towards our whole program of reconstruction and development. And that input into our own efforts has enabled us to create the necessary base for our socioeconomic transformation.

We have enjoyed excellent relations with your country. There has never been an occasion when we have had to complain to the United States on issues of bilateral relations falling in the political or diplomatic sphere. Yes, as you admit, there have been areas of difference. We are different on the modality of bringing about Namibia's independence, the linkage with the Cuban question. But, sir, generally we have looked at issues through the same glasses, one might say. And our posture regarding international situations of conflict has been identical. We all are opposed—we both are opposed to interference in the domestic affairs of a country by another.

And I'm sure this identity of viewpoint makes for the greater friendship and solidarity that we find between our two countries and our two people. We have enjoyed every minute of our stay in your country. We continue our talks with leaders of your society. But I'm very happy that the discussions we've just had have dwelled on those issues which are of mutual interest to our two sides.

As you have said, we have discussed bilateral relations, the question of economic aid to Zimbabwe, the question of our original relations, and the fact that South Africa continues to destabilize our region. We have discussed Namibia, we have discussed the apartheid system in South Africa, and there is a greater measure of agreement. There might be some difference here and there in respect of the method of bringing about change, positive change to the area.

We are very happy, indeed, that this visit has taken place. And may I thank you and Vice President Bush, who visited us not long ago, for extending this invitation to me and enabling me therefore to come to this wonderful country with a wonderful people and a wonderful tradition and express to them the gratitude of the people of Zimbabwe.

We are a young country. We may make mistakes as we move forward, but we are prepared that where we err we shall correct ourselves and get back to course.

We don't intend to vitiate at all those principles which underline the constitutional order that we have created. We are determined that a nonracial society shall exist in Zimbabwe and that racism, tribalism, regionalism, and whatever other "isms"-these are things of the past. What we would uphold as fundamental is that principle which binds us together and makes us one regardless of our race, color, or creed.

And these are matters on which the United States has long made a decision, matters of principle which make for greater democracy and greater freedom in society. We are prepared that this shall also be our tradition.

May I thank you for the kindness and hospitality which has been showered on me and my delegation since our arrival. We have come as friends; we go back as greater and closer friends still. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:23 p.m. to reporters assembled in the East Room at the White House. The remarks were scheduled to be given outside at the South Portico, but because of inclement weather the event was held in the East Room.

Earlier in the day, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and then held a working luncheon, together with U.S. and Zimbabwean officials, in the State Dining Room.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe Following Their Meetings Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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