Instead the new President recognised the “poisoned, rancorous and polarising” nature of domestic politics and called for a national response to the multiple challenges facing the country.
He expressed a desire to reach across political, ethnic and racial lines, calling for a renewal of the republic and the strengthening of its democracy.
He promised to address land tenure and compensation for past seizures, tackle the country’s ongoing economic decline (now manifesting itself in debilitating liquidity shortages and price surges), take steps to protect investment, deal with debt obligations, improve trade opportunities, reform the banking sector and improve administrative efficiencies.
But what he did not say was as significant as what he said.
He remained silent on electoral and security sector reforms as well as plans to devolve political power, and said little about reconciliation and national healing beyond general platitudes.
In short, while the speech offered some hope that Mnangagwa might chart a new national political course, it is equally possible the country is witnessing nothing more than a reconsolidation of power by ZANU-PF.
Party structures and leaders have dutifully followed the new script, in the main quickly turning against Mugabe and the G40.
The reconfiguration of leadership and party structures – both national and provincial –will consolidate the position of Mnangagwa and his allies.
The truncated December Extraordinary Party Congress endorsed Mnangagwa’s (and his top lieutenants) leadership and candidacy for the 2018 elections, as well as the G40 leaders’ expulsion.
Some party members kicked out during the 2014-2015 purge of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies have indicated their intention to return.