HARARE – On March 4, 1980, Prime Minister-elect Robert Mugabe gave his first ever speech to an independent Zimbabwe which captured the attention of the world as he promised to bury the country’s past after years of conflict with the then Rhodesian government and its forces.
Zimbabwe had just come out of a bitter and bloody conflict which resulted its independence from Britain on April 18, 1980.
In a rousing speech — Mugabe, who is now firmly domiciled at his palatial Blue Roof Borrowdale mansion after his stunning resignation in November last year on the back of a military operation — called for reconciliation and unity.
“Surely this is now time to beat our swords into ploughshares so we can attend to the problems of developing our country and our society.
“My party (Zanu PF) recognises the fundamental principle that in constituting a government it is necessary to be guided by the national interest rather than strictly party considerations,” he said.
And on Saturday, 38 years after making that speech, his long time aide and now successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose ascension to power was on the back of the military intervention, held a historic rally with whites at Borrowdale Race Course.
What was so significant about Mnangagwa’s meeting with the white community was his message of never repeating the mistakes of the past, particularly violation of property rights and ill-treatment of this minority group by Mugabe and Zanu PF in early 2000.
Mugabe and Zanu PF’s treatment of the white community was a result of their alleged support for the MDC in its early formative years, one of the reasons why Zimbabwe embarked on the chaotic agrarian reforms in 2000.
Mnangagwa on Saturday demonstrated that he wants to lead an all-inclusive Zimbabwe, in the event that he is substantively elected in the July 30 elections, by meeting this group.
It would be narrow-minded to try and paint Mnangagwa as an opportunist seeking for political gain ahead of elections, without looking at the big picture, which is to build a culture of acceptance and unity among Zimbabweans.
One of his rivals, Nelson Chamisa, has shown deep resentment for the Asian community which he promised to chuck out of the country if he’s elected.
What Mnangagwa has done is to turn past hostilities into ploughshares just like Mugabe did with his 1980 speech.