‘We dare not let ?the people down’

Telling thousands of supporters to enjoy themselves, President Robert Mugabe ended his inauguration speech and began what will perhaps be his last five years in office.

But as he started his seventh term in a burst of colour and a show of military power on Thursday, he faced the sizeable task of easing the deep fears of Zimbabweans, who are anxious about what the next five years will bring.

Two issues already dominate the start of his new term: the economy and his succession. How he handles both may determine what legacy he leaves behind, a matter that is hugely important to him.

There are fears about the future of the economy, and the impact that Mugabe’s succession, an issue he will now have to deal with, will have on the government’s ability to deliver.

'In the office'

Mugabe was sworn in before a large and vibrant crowd, which broke into song as soon as he took the oath: “Bob is in the office”, the song went.

But even among his own backers, there is uncertainty about what the next five years will look like.

“I just hope we can fix the economy, this is all that we want,” said a farmer and war veteran, Jairos Siyamango, who had travelled more than 200km to witness the inauguration.

In his new term, Mugabe will finally have to decide on who will succeed him, an issue he has deftly avoided for years. He has kept power by pitting internal party rivals against one another and casting himself as the one true unifier the party must keep to remain intact.

But even Mugabe himself, and his closest aides, now seem to be dropping hints that this might be it. With political opponents well beaten, Mugabe may use his new term to finally sort out his succession.

Ahead of the inauguration, a column believed to be written by his spokesperson Rugare Gumbo had hinted at what everyone suspects: “Soon Mugabe will go through the rituals of enthronement. We call it inauguration. It shall be a big event, given that this may be his last such.”


Mugabe’s speech, as many of those he made towards the end of his campaign, sounded like a farewell speech, heavily laden with references to his legacy of black empowerment and resistance to Western interference in Zimbabwe.

Already, days before his inauguration, Mugabe got a reminder of how urgently he needs to start dealing with succession. Vice-President Joice Mujuru appeared to be putting herself forward as a possible replacement in remarks she made to journalists, which sparked a row in her party.

“We know that the president will soon be 90 and God might decide to call him, but he has taught us a lot and how to lead the party. Zanu-PF will never die because President Mugabe is no longer there; there are people who now can lead the party,” Mujuru said.

The remarks angered many within the party, and her rivals this week grabbed at the chance by launching a rumour campaign in party corridors suggesting she was over-ambitious and was wishing Mugabe dead.

“It was not the best time for her to be speaking to reporters, especially not in that way. These are times of great suspicion,” a senior politburo member told the Mail & Guardian at the inauguration.


Her allies, however, said she had been misquoted by the press. Mujuru had carefully chosen her words, saying she “belonged to the Mugabe faction”.

Mugabe hopes his big win now gives him more time to settle the matter; he has fobbed off Western critics, whom he described as “vile” in his speech, and the Movement for Democratic Change appears to be in disarray. Mugabe’s speech suggested that he presently feels comfortable.

“We sought the political kingdom; we have now found it. Let us now forge ahead,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

But many fear the infighting that could now arise may distract the new government from the real business of mending the economy.

Mugabe seems to realise the huge task ahead in his new term. He acknowledged that the economy remains depressed. With some candour, he described the state of industry in Bulawayo, once the country’s industrial hub, as “an industrial scrapyard, indicative of the state of industry across the country”.

He will have to create jobs and improve service delivery to urban areas, the two issues that have cost him votes among the urban voters.


“Unemployed youth who voted did so with certain expectations. We must work for him, we must deliver for him,” Mugabe said.

There was even an attempt to ease the fears of business, whose anxiety over prospects for the next five years has shaken the financial markets.

“The business executive who voted, voted with some expectations, of course, as a creator of wealth and employment. We must ask ourselves how we can contribute to meet his expectations,” said Mugabe.

Mugabe said there were “hard truths” his government now needed to face up to. “We dare not let the people down,” he said.

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Jason Moyo
Guest Author

Police use sjamboks and rubber bullets to enforce Hillbrow lockdown

In one of South Africa’s most densely populated suburbs, the national lockdown is being implemented with force

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and...

Under a state of national disaster, some rights may be suspended. But it is critical to remember that the Constitution itself is not suspended

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories