Already that dazzling speech has set in motion a political tremor that could shake Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai off the political stage — for it is now Mugabe who is seen as the agent of change.
Very few people expected Mugabe to speak so passionately about human rights and the importance of guarding against their erosion. Indeed, until the afternoon of April 18, it was easy to find fault with the way Mugabe had responded to some of Zimbabwe’s most serious concerns.
Well-founded allegations of violence and coercion during elections had constantly been brought to his attention and, despite the fact that these deeply shamed Zimbabwe as a nation and caused great damage to his reputation as a leader, action was thin on the ground.
Then on April 18 (Independence Day) he called for political tolerance in a way that stunned his enemies and supporters alike, drastically transforming the political landscape in Zimbabwe. Eloquent and confident, he spoke with the brilliance.
The importance of his message lay not so much in the significance of the occasion as in the sincerity of his tone.
In fact, a senior MDC-T official told me soon after the president’s speech that after listening to Mugabe he was convinced, for the first time, Tsvangirai might never rule this country and that the inclusive government was about as far as he had gone.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Between now and the next election, Zanu PF will be subjected to a rigorous and microscopic examination. Generally, Mugabe’s party has made some achievements, not the least the on-going indigenisation drive.
Yet some very troubling questions remain for Zanu PF. A few months ago, many in Zanu PF, including this writer, condemned the worrying levels of corruption, sleaze and greed currently being displayed by officials from Tsvangirai’s party. Of course we were right in pointing this out. But there was something very hypocritical about our criticism. We spoke of corruption in the MDC-T as if Zanu PF itself was sanctimonious.
And it is here that Mugabe’s call for change will be tested. At the attainment of Independence many in his government were acclaimed for their strong belief in public service. They were well aware of the difference between public office and private life. They put the nation ahead of self, duty ahead of greed. In short, they did not join government so they could make money.
Yet in the recent past we have seen public funds being used for private purposes and, with it, the deterioration of public life. The recent diversion of farm inputs meant for the less privileged graphically tells the story.
Repeatedly, money has changed hands and tenders have been awarded without due process. National wealth has been used to benefit only a few selfish individuals.
And as those who belong to this league of shame have lived lavishly, the entire nation has suffered. Little wonder this country is without electricity, jobs, safe water and good roads.
Of course there are few men and women of definite integrity in Zanu PF whose names remain uncontaminated and it would be a little unfair to paint them with the same brush. But there is no doubt something has gone horribly wrong with our political system. It is now incumbent on Mugabe to reverse it.
Unfortunately there is very little time remaining between now and the next election for Mugabe to put things right. Yet a lot could still be achieved.
Mugabe needs to show some steel and get rid of ministers implicated in corruption and there are no fewer than 20 such names. Not only have these wicked souls done terrible damage to the party, they have destroyed this once great nation in an almost unforgivable way.
Admittedly it might be too dangerous for Mugabe to ditch his loyalists at this stage, but that’s a risk he will have to take for the sake of this nation. He needs to demonstrate he is as genuine as he appeared on Independence Day. Should he fail, he will soon be treated with contempt again and that would be desperately sad.
Psychology Maziwisa is a Harare-based legal advisor, political commentator and analyst.