ONLY a few weeks ago, Zimbabwe celebrated its 28th Independence anniversary and for the first time since the end of colonialism, citizens wondered whether their vote would be counted;
whether their civil rights would be protected by a government that was born from the womb of racial oppression; whether justice would prevail and the promise of Independence would still be honoured.
Zimbabweans have now been officially informed after a month of anxiety that only two individuals remain standing and when the storm eventually passes, only one of them will remain standing as President.
Who will it be? Who best captures the imagination of the Zimbabwean people? What does Zimbabwe need at this juncture in its history? If Mugabe, then what next? Can you imagine what Zimbabwe will be like in five years with Mugabe at the helm? If you cannot, then you still have a chance to voice your opinion.
The real difference will come when people choose to be engaged in the debates of the time and become the change they want to see.
Anyone who does not believe that Mugabe offers the change they want to see, there is no other choice than voting for and supporting Morgan Tsvangirai.
For the first time, President Mugabe goes into an election without knowing its outcome and this must be an experience for him.
The people of Zimbabwe appear to be serious in reclaiming their heritage and in actively shaping their future.
The first step into a new future was the transformation of Zanu PF into a minority party.
In as much as Mugabe had wanted the election to be about the past, albeit oblivious of his record, the people of Zimbabwe seem to have other ideas.
Mugabe offers no new ideas but would like to take Zimbabwe back to 1979 to recapture the rare moment when Zimbabweans broke down colonial barriers with the hope that the country would be inched closer to the ideals that informed the revolutionary struggle.
Mugabe huddled with brilliant minds of his day, some of whom have been condemned to retire in abject poverty, and embarked on a journey that was expected to transform the exclusive colonial state into an inclusive one.
It was obvious then that there was a fierce urgency to change the course of history.
Mugabe was not elected in 1980 to just make history but deliver on the promise of Independence.
Now 28 years later, it must and should not be enough just to look back in wonder at how far Zimbabweans have been reduced to become spectators while the country has been sliding into a dangerous economic and political quagmire, but it is time to seriously think about whether Mugabe still is best suited to take the country forward given the journey still to be traversed.
Predictably, Mugabe has already offered himself for the final showdown against his own record.
It would be wrong to suggest that Mugabeâ€™s competitor is Tsvangirai for it is really his own record.
Twenty eight years in office is a long time for anyone to run on his record and yet it is not obvious that Mugabe has accepted that he should take some responsibility for plunging the country into an economic abyss.
Zimbabwe is at a historic and defining crossroads and the run-off provides yet another opportunity for Zimbabweans to pronounce their opinion about what time it is in Zimbabwe. Is it Mugabe time or is it time up?
This year and this election come at a time of great challenge and promise.
Zimbabwe is challenged and citizens find themselves fearful of their own government and less respected globally than at anytime since Independence.
It is a time for change that citizens can believe in. I am not convinced that if in the rare chance that Mugabe is re-elected, hope will be restored and the country can be put back to work.
Accordingly, Zimbabweans have another chance to turn the leaf and choose a fundamentally different future not only in terms of policies and style of leadership but a chance to heal a divided nation.
It must be accepted that some of the challenges that confront the country that have been made worse by President Mugabe and his administration, existed long before he took office but were not met for decades because of a post-colonial political system that has failed the Zimbabwean and African people.
I refer to challenges like health care; energy and environment, ethics and political morality, education, rural development, the economy, rule of law, urban policy, poverty, security, and civil rights.
We must accept that President Mugabe is a skilled politician who is now a master at employing textbook campaign strategies and tactics. However, the country requires a break from the failures of his administration and it is time to be honest about the challenges that Zimbabweans face.
Zimbabweans need to be told what they need to know and not what they already know about the vices of colonialism.
This election is really about the future and not the past. As Zimbabweans prepare for the run-off, it is important that they resist from surrendering their future to a president whose world view is a threat to prosperity for all, opportunity and justice.
We all know that in Mugabeâ€™s mind, winning elections and staying in power means everything. But going forward, even people who may have doubts about Tsvangirai must realise this is a time when differences must be put aside in the interests of advancing Zimbabweâ€™s promise.
Some have proposed a government of national unity as a solution but as President Mugabe has said before, competition is healthy and it should not be the case that losers end up miraculously as winners just
because they control the arsenal to intimidate others.
The people of Zimbabwe need to move forward and it seems that for better or worse, Tsvangirai is the chosen one and history must allow him to lead and define his own agenda without the fear of the ghosts of the past 28 years.
Any supporter of Zanu PF must surely be aware of what time it is and it is not too late to smell the coffee and in the interests of the country send the message to President Mugabe that he is alone in the run-off and the real final push is in the making.
The country should mean more than the fate of Mugabe and now is a time when only two names are on the menu of Zimbabwean voters to eloquently convey a message that it is time for President Mugabe to look for another career.
Zimbabwe needs change and the mere fact that the name of Tsvangirai is still on the ballot means for the first time, Zimbabweans are ready to break from the past and textbook politics that President Mugabe is good at.
By Mutumwa Mawere:Â A Zimbabwean born businessman based in South Africa.