VETERAN leader Robert Mugabe was on Thursday sworn-in as president for the next five years in a ceremony attended by a handful of African leaders but boycotted by his erstwhile colleagues from the outgoing unity government.
The ceremony was held at the giant National Sports Stadium before a crowded gallery, which greeted the veteran leader with wild cheers when he entered the giant sports facility accompanied by his wife, Grace.
Mugabe was taken through his swearing-in rituals – his seventh such experience since becoming Zimbabwe’s founding leader in 1980 – by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku in a ceremony that was broadcast live on national television.
In his inaugural speech that lasted more than an hour, Mugabe lashed out at Western governments that have refused to accept the outcome of the July 31st poll, which saw him garner 61 percent of the presidential vote.
“SADC, Comesa, the African Union, the ACP, the United Nations as well as many nations of good will have praised the elections here,” Mugabe said.
“We welcome this positive spirit, this encouragement which should see us do even better, move forward faster as a nation. But like in all elections, there will always be bad losers, real spoilers, it is a price we pay for electoral democracy, isn’t it?
“Indeed an inevitable phase in our growth as a people where the democratic practice, where such a grousing stance remains non antagonistic, where it expresses itself within the four corners of the law. It must be tolerated as part of the Democratic tussles, part of electoral adjustments.
“For those old western countries who happen to hold a different negative view of our electoral process and outcome, well there is not much we can do about them. We dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mould.
“They are entitled to their views for as long as they recognise that the majority of our people endorsed the electoral outcome. Indeed for as long as they recognise that no Zimbabwean law was offended against and for us that is all that matters.
“After all Zimbabwean elections are meant for Zimbabwean voting citizens; after all Zimbabwean democracy is meant for the people of Zimbabwe who must within certain periods go to the polls to choose and install a government of their choice.
“It is their sole prerogative and no outsiders however superior or powerful they may imagine themselves to be, can override that right, let alone take it from them. It is our inherent right, we fought for it when it was lost we won it through our own blood, we keep it for us and posterity, we reserve it forever as an expression of our sovereignty as a free people.
“Today we tell those dissenting nations that the days of colonialism and neo-colonialism have gone and gone forever. Today it is Britain and her dominions of Australia and Canada who dare tell us that our elections were not fair and credible.
“Today it is America and her illegal elections with all that past of enslaving us, it is America that dares raise a censorious voice over our affairs and says our elections were not fair, were not credible, yes today it is these Anglo-Saxon who dare contradict Africa’s verdict over elections in Zimbabwe, an African country. But who are they we ask? Whoever gave them the gift of seeing better than all of us?”
The US has ruled out lifting its sanctions while the UK said it wanted an independent audit to investigate “allegations of election irregularities”. The EU also “serious concerns” about the conduct of the elections and said it would take this into consideration when reviewing its sanctions against the country.
But Mugabe insisted that said the flawless conduct of the July 31 elections left countries hostile to his government with no excuse for maintaining the sanctions which he blames for the country’s economic problems.
“Yesterday the pretext for imposing those sanctions was to do with a deficit of democracy here. Today we ask those culprit nations what their excuse is. What is it now? Whose interests are those sanctions meant to serve?”
The veteran leader extended an olive branch to his former partners in the inclusive government.
“I owe nothing but praise and respect to my GPA era partners who are also my fellow countrymen. I am referring to former Prime Minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and much later Professor Welshman Ncube,” Mugabe said, adding that their collaboration as an inclusive government helped produce the country’s first ever post-independence constitution.
“We have worked together initially compelled by GPA protocol, we found each other and proceeded to produce the current constitution but it was the constitution to help us mould the way of life we have chosen for ourselves on this our land, our country together and for as long as our nation subsists, so will elections and the opportunities they offer also subsist.
“Our own destiny bids us to work together never at cross purposes, we will be having competitions, having winners and losers but we are not competing, we shall never be competing to be Zimbabweans. No, that was a fight we fought and that was the gift that our country gave us, that we shall all we the citizens of this country be Zimbabweans.”
African leaders present were President Joseph Kabila of DRC, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, and Swaziland Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini.
Zambian leader Michael Sata was represented by his deputy Guy Scott while former South African leader and now Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe stood in for President Jacob Zuma.
Former Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa both from Tanzania, Dr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa , Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Sir Quett Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae both from Botswana also attended the inauguration.
But, and as expected, the two MDC formations boycotted the ceremony, which was however attended by Mutambara.