PREMIUM FREE TRIAL

Worst political speech ever: Stubborn Mugabe blows opportunity to exit ‘gracefully’

JOHANNESBURG — Watching Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe mumble over a prepared speech and then refuse to announce his resignation made for painful television viewing on Sunday night following a weekend of high drama. By ignoring mass protests and a military intervention, Mugabe has further diminished his chance for a ‘graceful’ exit. He may still finally decide to resign today, tomorrow or the next month; but in years to come, books will be written about the moment he had the perfect chance to exit power but decided not to. Regardless of yesterday’s events, history will treat Mugabe harshly as a tyrant and the destructor-in-chief of what could have been one of Africa’s most prosperous nations. Reports indicate that he went off script during the speech — questions will swirl over whether he chose to ignore the words ‘I resign’. For posterity’s sake, we’ve published the full transcript of Sunday’s speech here – Gareth van Zyl

By President Robert Mugabe

Fellow Zimbabweans, I address you tonight on the back of a meeting I held today with the nation’s security forces command element.

This meeting which was facilitated by a mediating team… followed an operation mounted by the Zimbabwean Defence Forces in the week that has gone by, and which was triggered by concerns from their reading of the state of affairs in our country and in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Zimbabwe banks

Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I as the President of Zimbabwe and as their Commander in Chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to, and do believe these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people.

As I address you I am also aware of a whole range of concerns which have come from you all as citizens of our great country and which deserve our untrammelled attention.

Today’s meeting with the command element has underscored the need for us to collectively start processes that return our nation to normalcy so that all our people can go about their business unhindered in an environment of perfect peace and security assured that the law and order prevail as before and endure well into the future.

If there is any one observation we have made and drawn from events of the last week it is the unshakable pedestal upon which rests our state of peace and law and order, amply indicating that as Zimbabweans we are generally a peaceably disposed people and with a given-ness to express our grievances and to resolve our differences ourselves and with a level of dignity and restraint so rare to many other nations. This is to be admired. Indeed such traits must form the path of our national character and personality. Yes, a veritable resource we summon and draw upon in times of vicissitudes.

The operation I have alluded to did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order, nor was it a challenge to my authority as head of state and government, not even as commander in chief of the Zimbabwean Defence Forces. To the man, the command element remained respectful and comported themselves with diktats and mores of constitutionalism. True, a few incidents may have occurred here and there but they are being corrected. I am happy that throughout the short period the pillars of state remained functional. Even happier for me and arising from today’s meeting is a strong sense of collegiality and comradeship now binding the various arms of our security establishment. This should redound to greater peace and offer an abiding sense of security in communities and in our entire nation.

Among the issues discussed is that relating to our economy, which as we all know is going through a difficult patch. Of greater concern to our commanders are the well-founded fears that the lack of unity and commonness of purpose in both party and government was translating into perceptions of inattentiveness to the economy. Open public spats between officials in the party and government exacerbated by multiple conflicting messages from both the party and government made the criticisms levelled at us inescapable.

Amidst all this, flagship projects already adopted by government stood stalled or mired in needless controversies. All this needs to stop as we inaugurate a new work culture and pace which will show a strong sense of purpose and commitment to turning around our economy in terms of our policies. The government remains committed to improving the social and material conditions of the people. Government will soon unveil an entrepreneurial skills and business development program which will empower and unleash gainful projects at our growth points and in rural areas.

Fellow Zimbabweans we are a nation born out of a protracted struggle for national independence. Our roots lie in that epochal struggle whose goals and ideals must guide our present and structure our future.

The tradition of resistance is our collective legacy, whose core tenets must [be] subscribed [to] by all across generations and across times. Indeed these too were a concern of our commanders who themselves were makers of that revolution and often at very tender ages and at great personal peril. We still have in our various communities veterans of that founding struggle who might have found the prevailing management of national and party issues quite alienating. This must be corrected without delay, include ensuring that these veterans continue to play central roles in the lives of our nation. We must all recognise that their participation in the war of liberation exacted lifelong costs that, while hardly repayable, may still be assuaged and ameliorated.

In respect of the party and the party issued raised both by the commanders and by the general membership of Zanu-PF, these too stand acknowledged. They have to be attended to with a great sense of urgency, however, I am aware that as a party of liberation, Zanu-PF has over the years written elaborate rules and procedures that guide the operations of all its organs and personnel. Indeed the current criticisms raised against it by the command element and some of its members have arisen from a well-founded perception that the party was stretching or even failing in its own rules and procedures. The way forward thus cannot be based on swapping vying cliques that ride roughshod over party rules and procedures. There has to be a net return to the guiding principles of our party as enshrined in its constitution, which must apply fairly and equitably in all situations and before all members. The era of victimisation and arbitrary decisions must be put behind [us], so as we all embrace a new ethos predicated on the supreme law of our party and nourished by an abiding sense of camaraderie.

To all, there must be a general recognition that Zanu-PF is a party of traditions and has been served by successive generations who are bound together by shared ideals and values, which must continue to reign supreme in our nation.

Read also: Zimbabwe MDC founder David Coltart: Too early to celebrate, military must return to barracks

Hints of inter-generational conflict must be resolved through a harmonised melding of old established players as they embrace and welcome new rules through a well-defined sense of hierarchy and succession.

Indeed all these matters will be discussed and settled at the forthcoming Congress within the framework of a clear roadmap that seeks to resolve once and for all any omissions or contradictions that have affected our party negatively. The Congress is due in a few weeks from now. I will preside over its processes, that must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public.

As I conclude this address I am aware that many developments have occurred in the party or have been championed and done by individuals in the name of the party. Given the failings of the past and the anger these might have triggered in some quarters, such developments are quite understandable, however, we cannot be guided by bitterness or vengefulness, both of which would not make us any better party members or any better Zimbabweans. Our hallowed policy of reconciliation which we pronounced in 1980 and through which we reached out to those which occupied and oppressed us for nearly a century and those we had traded fire within a bitter war surely cannot be unavailable to our own, both in the party and in our nation.

We must learn to forgive and to resolve contradictions, real or perceived, in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit. I am confident that from tonight our whole nation at all levels gets refocused as we put our shoulder to the wheel amidst the promising agricultural season already upon us.

Let us all move forward reminding ourselves of our wartime mantra.

I thank you and goodnight.

For a deeper understanding of the world of money and greater financial control, upgrade to BizNews Premium.