A transcript of the late leader’s address to the nation on March 4, 1980.
Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from 1980, when he was elected in the newly independent country’s first national vote, to 2017, when he was ousted in a military coup, died on Friday. Although he was widely condemned as a violently repressive dictator by the end of his life, his presidency was initially met with international acclaim and optimism. It isn’t hard to see why. In his inaugural address, he urged all Zimbabweans, “whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive and forget, join hands in a new amity, and together as Zimbabweans, trample upon racialism, tribalism, and regionalism, and work to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.” Those are tasks that continue, of course, under his successor as leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
A full transcript of his address is below.
Greetings in the name of freedom.
May I thank you most heartily for your votes and support.
I feel overwhelmed as at the same time I feel humbled.
I wish to address you tonight on the significance of the election victory you awarded my party, ZANU (PF). In doing so, I would like to thank all those who, either by their direct vote as our supporters or by their efficient campaigning as our organizers, have contributed to this favorable result. In addition, may I also thank all officials who participated in the mechanical exercise of handling the elections, without whose organizational and administrative efforts the whole election process would have been a failure.
Soon a new government will come into being and lead our country to independence. In constituting this government, my main concern, and that of the party, is to create an instrument capable of achieving peace and stability as it strives to bring about progress.
Peace and stability can only be achieved if all of us, first as individuals and secondly as part of the whole Zimbabwean national community, feel a definite sense of individual security on the one hand and have an assurance of national peace and security on the other.
It must be realized, however, that a state of peace and security can only be achieved by our determination, all of us, to be bound by the explicit requirements of peace contained in the Lancaster House Agreement, which express the general desire of the people of Zimbabwe.
In this regard, I wish to assure you that there can never be any return to the state of armed conflict which existed before our commitment to peace and the democratic process of election under the Lancaster House Agreement.
Surely this is the time to beat our swords into ploughshares so that we can attend to the problems of developing our economy and our society.
My party recognizes the fundamental principle of that, in constituting a government, it is necessary to be guided by the national interest rather than by strictly party considerations. Accordingly, I am holding consultations with the leader of the ZAPU (PF), Comrade Joshua Nkomo, so we can enter into a coalition. What I envisage, however, is a coalition which, in the interests of reconciliation, can include, by co-option, members of other communities whom the constitution has denied the right of featuring as our candidates by virtue of their being given parliamentary representation. We should certainly work to achieve a national front.
Whatever government I succeed in creating will certainly adhere to the letter and spirit of our constitution, since the government will itself have been the product of such constitution.
Only a government that subjects itself to the rule of law has any moral right to demand its citizens’ obedience to the rule of law.
Our constitution equally circumscribes the powers of the government by declaring certain rights and freedoms fundamental. We intend to uphold these fundamental rights and freedoms to the full.
Similarly, it is not our intention to interfere with pension rights and other accrued benefits of the civil servants. I may mention here that I have now held discussions with chiefs of joint operations command, as well as heads of ministries, and all of them have given me the assurance of their preparedness to work under my government. I, in turn, assured them of our concern about their position and the position of the civil servants.
We have assured them that it is not the intention of our government, when it comes into being, to deprive the civil servants of their pension rights and accrued benefits; nor do we want anybody out of the country; nor do we intend to interfere unconstitutionally with the property rights of individuals.
I urge you, whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive and forget, join hands in a new amity, and together as Zimbabweans, trample upon racialism, tribalism, and regionalism, and work to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.
The need for peace demands that our forces be integrated as soon as possible so that we can emerge with a single national army. Accordingly, I shall authorize Gen. Walls, working in conjunction with the ZANLA and ZPRA commanders, to preside over the integration process. We shall also happily continue to enjoy the assistance of British military instructors.
Finally, I wish to assure all the people that my government will strive to bring meaningful change to their lives. But everyone should exercise patience, for change cannot occur overnight. For now, let us be united in our endeavor to lead the country to independence. Let us constitute a oneness derived from our common objectives and total commitment to build a great Zimbabwe that will be the pride of all Africa.
Let us deepen our sense of belonging and engender a common interest that knows no race, color, or creed. Let us truly become Zimbabweans with a single loyalty.
Long live our freedom!