But still, conspicuous scepticism lingered on whether that was enough to end endemic violence that continues to perpetuate a siege mood on his opponents.
The rare convention, which later proved to be a talk show, was convened at tax payers’ expense, bringing together hundreds of politicians from Zanu-PF’s central committee and the two MDC formations’ national councils.
Besides being held at one of the city’s top hotels, most of the politicians who attended were Harare residents who were booked into expensive hotels.
Critics say the convention was always going to be the biggest of yawns for as long as Mugabe, who wields state power, did not go beyond his mere pleas for peace.
As if not enough, Mugabe mysteriously barred questions from the floor.
This was easily interpreted to be confirming his fears MDC politicians were going to arm-twist him into making an unequivocal directive to the police to take a more robust stand against his fanatic followers.
There are suggestions the indaba, which was convened at Zanu-PF’s request despite the MDC-T’s “reservations”, gave Mugabe a good opportunity to stage manage his detest for violence while hoodwinking South African facilitators to Zimbabwe’s inter-party dialogue, who are reportedly in possession of a dossier prepared by the MDC-T detailing acts of Zanu-PF violence.
Known for being a sabre rattling leader who brooks no opposition to his rule, many believe it was always going to be a big surprise if Mugabe deviated from his predicable path of blaming the violence on his opponents who claim persistent abuse at the hands of his militant followers and the security organs.
Violence victims from the four corners of the country were waiting with batted breath to hear how the “head of state and government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces” intended to deploy state power to end their misery.
But Mugabe chose to disappoint by defending the police at a time his critics were about to give him the benefit of doubt that this time he meant his words.
“There is a complaint that police allow violence to occur but when you ask the police themselves they say ‘we are barred from the rallies by parties but when the violence occurs… it is then when we are summoned and we would not know then who would have cause the violence’,” Mugabe said.
He continued, “You need them (police) to stand around yes not to interfere. But let them be around. You never know what can happen. But no don’t fight them. Please don’t fight them please.”
It was easy to feel pity for his co-governing partners namely MDC faction leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube who did their bit by calling on state organs to assume their responsibilities by arresting the perpetrators.
But the proverbial buck would always stop with the veteran leader.
“Mugabe’s address was a very good historical narrative but was ambiguous in calling for police to arrest the culprits,” said MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, who adds that Mugabe’s sincerity would be measured when he starts issuing directives for the arrest of the real culprits.
Pamela Mabika, a Zanu-PF violence victim, is frustrated the leaders dedicated valuable time to “posturing” while failing to even make a small attempt to interrogate the causes of the violence.
“They kept it to speculation,” she said, “If Mugabe was sincere in his address, he should demonstrate this by appointing an independent body to investigate violence instead of relying on biased briefings by Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri whom we all know to be a Zanu-PF functionary.”
Some feel if Mugabe was sincere about non violence, he would start by ordering investigations on the violence that preceeded the 2008 presidential run off election where the MDC-T claims over 200 of its supporters were killed.
Critics argue the veteran leader, who lost the 2008 elections despite a Father Christmas style distribution of farm inputs and computers to gain support, will not find it easy to abandon violence as an alternative electoral strategy.
David Banda, another Harare resident says Mugabe is aware a peaceful environment would allow his opponents to make political headway at his expense.
“Mugabe does not like political violence but finds it as a handy tool when faced with a situation where power is slipping off his fingers,” he said.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya says Mugabe’s clumsy handling of political violence could be a manifestation of intense factional fissures within his party.
“We know that there are factions in Zanu-PF which are also visible within JOC,” he said.
“It might be that Mugabe himself is not in control of the military faction in which case even if he issues any commands, no one listens or alternatively because Zanu-PF is known for using violence as an electoral strategy and since the country is in an electoral mode it simply means Mugabe can postulate, posture and preach peace publicly but when he gets back to his politburo, he insists on maintaining an abrasive revolutionary methodology of cohesion and intimidation.”