In his inauguration speech yesterday President Mnangagwa hit the right notes pledging to be an effective listening President for all Zimbabweans, both those who voted for him, just over half the electorate and those who preferred someone else, just under half.
In other words he has no favourites and definitely no hit list.
An inauguration speech is not a detailed Government programme. That comes in the Presidential address opening each annual session of Parliament with the details fleshed out by the Finance Minister in the annual budgets. But an inauguration address does set the tone for an entire five-year administration.
Here President Mnangagwa had the same themes he has been pressing since he assumed office nine months ago to serve out the remainder of a previous Presidential term. His top priorities are economic development and very high levels of freedom for Zimbabweans.
Rightly he sees these core thrusts as cutting across party divisions and so he believes a united effort is achievable. There is, in his words, far more that unites us as Zimbabweans than divides us.
As he has repeatedly said, President Mnangagwa wants to see Zimbabwe wrenched out of the past into a prosperous future. Zimbabwe has, to a large extent, been trapped in the status of a 20th Century post-colonial and newly independent state, although by now a majority of the population and possibly a majority of voters, were born after independence.
The President wants Zimbabwe to be a modern 21st century normal middle income country and wants that by 2030. It is achievable and he has been laying the foundations since assuming office in November last year, the big difference now being that he has his own national mandate and a five-year term to make a serious assault on poverty and all the other ills.
He stressed yet again that he wants to be a listening President. Presumably this means he wants to hear the ideas and know the problems of all Zimbabweans rather than just issue orders that have little contact with reality. Obviously a President has to act, lead his Government, co-ordinate efforts and ensure that his team is pulling in the right direction.
But action based on detailed knowledge of what people want and based on using the best ideas regardless of source, is more likely to be effective than some private idea.
One concept on which he campaigned and now wishes to implement, is to devolve far more decision making down to provinces and local government. This makes sense since this is where the people are. There was a warning, that he expects all local authorities to pull their weight, but since they were elected by the people they are supposed to serve to do just that, this is not unreasonable. We note that the President seems quite unworried about the potential divide between urban authorities, almost all controlled by MDC-Alliance dominated councils and rural authorities, almost all controlled by Zanu-PF dominated councils.
He wants them all to serve their people properly. And if the mayors of cities and large towns and the chairmen of small towns and rural district councils want to compete as to who will double the number of business licences first, then they are all likely to find the President cheering them on and doing his part to smoothen the way.
Obviously there are limits to what can be devolved, but if all the local authorities in a particular province unite over some programme and proposal that needs legislative changes and central Government action to be implemented in full, a listening President is obviously going to be easy to persuade.
It is in this light that we need to interpret his call for all in elected office and all in the bureaucracy, presumably from the head of his own office down to the most junior staffer in the most remote ward office in local government, to think seriously how they will serve the people and serve them efficiently, honestly and fairly.
He repeated his call for all opposition political parties, especially those represented in Parliament, to be part of the united thrust for development. Obviously this does not mean they have to just follow Government programmes. They must express their own ideas, and articulate the needs of the constituencies they represent. They are free to criticise the Government, as all citizens are.
But what it does mean is that the President would like them to put Zimbabwe first, pressing on him their ideas, highlighting shortfalls and not wandering around the planet trying to persuade others to harm their country. To adapt an old saying, in Zimbabwe we might well be Zanu-PF, MDC-Alliance or some other party. Outside we need to be Zimbabwean and inside or outside all leaders of all parties need to put the people before their own party or career.
We showed, as a lot of people from the President down have noted, that we can all act very well indeed in the just ended election. We all need to learn from that single violent incident on August 1 in Harare and now that the President is inaugurated he has promised he will very soon appoint a commission of inquiry and publish its findings.
We hope the commission will have a particularly wide mandate, looking at all aspects from what sparked the violence to how it was ended and able to make wide-ranging recommendations. This is one of those occasions when hindsight can be useful so we can figure out what we need to do and not do in future.
This is, incidentally, a practical example of what it means to be a listening President, one wanting to find out what happened and why, so is a good portent that rhetoric is being put into action.