ZIMBABWE – There can be an ‘everlasting’ tango when Divine love meets a man’s self-declared passion for the job. President Robert Mugabe loves Zimbabwe. The man loves his motherland, he says, like he loves himself.
Now, some Zimbabwean MPs are trying to break this stalemate of passion. The MPs say there comes a time when such passion is a liability. They fear the due date has arrived for the love between Mugabe and Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, who will be 92 in February, the MPs say, has developed a “tendency to fall”. The latest near-fall occurred in India. NewsDay, a Nigerian newspaper, reported the incident, with images borrowed from a video recording of the incident.
India New Street showed India Prime Minister Narendra Modi helping his guest back to his feet. The elderly Zimbabwean had missed a step, and nearly tumbled. President Mugabe visited the Asian country last month for the India-Africa Summit.
President Mugabe also ‘fell down’ at the Harare International Airport, on return from an African Union meeting in February. He missed a step, as he walked to the motorcade after addressing his supporters.
Although pictures of a falling Mugabe were later distributed worldwide, his allies maintained, “The President had broken the fall.”
Information minister Jonathan Moyo, a loyal party spinner, gave a twist to the fall. But that was before the images of a falling Mugabe hit the pages and online. Moyo blamed the fall on a “poorly laid out carpet”.
“What happened is that the President tripped over a hump on the carpet on one of the steps of the dais as he was stepping down from the platform, but he remarkably broke the fall on his own. I repeat the President managed to break the fall,” Moyo, angry at the insinuation the President is frail, told Harare Press.
“And to be honest with you, even Jesus, let alone you, would have also tripped in that kind of situation. In the circumstances, there is really nothing to write home about the nonsensical celebrations by the malcontents who are imagining a fall that never was since it was actually broken by the president himself,” Moyo was quoted, telling Nehanda Radio News from Harare.
When images of the incident surfaced, the narrative changed. Moyo warned the government would confiscate cameras the next time the President falls. He had been told digital images stay, for days, after deletion in case a retrieval is necessary.
Critical Zimbabwean MPs say the President, who has been running the southern African country for 35 years, has atrophied. But party loyalists declare such a claim is malicious, unpatriotic, and atrocious.
Loyalists believe their party leader is as “fit as fiddle”. They are not doctors, but the dying idiom gives them the hope their Dear Leader Bob is immortal.
Twenty officers from Mugabe’s security cordon were reported fired after the First Lady Grace Mugabe demanded an ‘inquiry’ . It was, however, not reported whether the workers who “mislaid” the VIP carpet were also dismissed, or jailed for ‘attempted murder’ or causing the President public embarrassment.
Zanu-PF loyalists do not see Mugabe going anywhere until God wills it. For now, anyone imagining Mugabe is approaching the status of a door nail is dicing with treason.
At 91, President Mugabe is still running a country when most of his age-mates are either dead or cannot manage their own bodies. God must love this man as to give him an inexhaustible capacity to love Zimbabwe and himself.
Bob has always acknowledged the divine bonus: “I am here for as long as I am still sane, with good memory and willpower. I thank God for giving me extra strength. I still have a bright mind; I still have will. I know our history more than you do. I know the wishes of those heroes and those who lie elsewhere more than you do. I know the wishes of the chiefs, dead and alive,” he told the Zanu-PF, Congress in December 2024.
Mugabe has often told Zanu-PF: “I cannot leave the ruling party when it still needs me.”
Born in 1924, Mugabe is four years older than the second-oldest African president. President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia is 88. The Tunisian first won regular elections last year at 87.
Paul Biya of Cameroon follows at 82. He has been the chief executive of Cameroon since 1982. In Algeria, President Abdellaziz Bouteflika is running the country at 78. He has been president from 1999.
President Manuel Pinto da Costa of São Tomé and Príncipe at 78. He was president from 1975 to 1991. He was elected again in 2011. Alpha Conde of Guinea is also president at 78. He was elected in 2010, well above the continent’s mortality rate of 48.
The only woman in the crowded field of elderly men, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, is 76. She has been in charge from 2006, when she was elected. She is the seventh oldest African president.
Mugabe will be running for another presidential election well approaching the 100-mark. The falls or near-misses are nothing, Bob, Zanu-PF loyalists say, is as ” fit as a fiddle”. They do not need a doctor’s permission to declare this.