Men and women of Zimbabwe: it has been my great honor to serve as leader of this country for the last 28 years, first as prime minister and more recently as president.

Throughout that time I have worked to the best of my ability to serve Zimbabwe’s interests and to promote the welfare of its people. I had hoped to continue to serve you for another term, but you have chosen to vote for change and I respect that decision.

While I am disappointed by the result, I am proud that we have built in Zimbabwe a democracy that allows its people to choose their own future.

I congratulate Mr Tsvangirai on his victory, and I have offered to meet with him to arrange an orderly transfer of power.

I trust that the new government will continue to pursue the goals of a strong, independent and prosperous Zimbabwe, and they can be assured that in doing so they will have my full support.

At the age of 84, it can hardly be supposed that Mugabe has any rational interest in retaining power for its own sake. His remaining goals are twofold: to secure immunity from prosecution for himself and his cronies, and to safeguard his own place in history.

On both counts, he would be far better served by a gracious concession, such as the above, than by attempting to remain in office through fraud and violence. A peaceful transition would make an honorable retirement possible; a bloody and contested one could only lead to persecution, exile or death.

At present, however, the second outcome looks more likely: the habits of power, and its concomitant isolation from reality, seem to be blinding the president to his own interests.

A summit of southern African leaders at the weekend offers perhaps a last opportunity for sanity to prevail. Let’s hope Mugabe can still be persuaded to do the right thing for his country, and himself.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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