The conciliatory speech delivered by Emmerson Mnangagwa at Harare’s National Sports Stadium on 24 November, when he assumed the presidency of Zimbabwe, could not have been delivered by Robert Mugabe in the past 30 years of his own 37-year presidency.
Mnangagwa said his goal was to recognise what he called the “strength in diversity” of Zimbabwe’s people. It was a coded plea for the 80 per cent of the country’s people who are Shona, and 20 per cent who are Ndebele, as well as the remaining whites, to come together. The country’s abundant natural resources, he said, must be exploited for the national good. International investors must be made to feel secure. He outlined a social democratic economic model, combining elements of a market economy with well-run public enterprises.
The measured rationality of his vision contrasted with Mugabe’s fevered rhetoric. However, there was also an echo of Mugabe – the one who became prime minister in 1980 and found the right words to persuade the whites then essential to the stability of the economy to stay. But Mugabe was a self-declared Marxist–Leninist. His true political disposition soon began to emerge.