Mugabe lives to rule another day

Staying power: President Robert Mugabe has joked about previous reports of his death, saying: 'I have died many times – that's where I have beaten Christ. [He] died once and resurrected once.' (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Staying power: President Robert Mugabe has joked about previous reports of his death, saying: 'I have died many times – that's where I have beaten Christ. [He] died once and resurrected once.' (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

“‘“You doubt that there can be a new year, but you cannot doubt that there will be a story on the president’s alleged death every January,” said President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, on Wednesday in response to yet another rumour that Zimbabwe’s veteran ruler was dead after suffering a heart attack.

Rumours that Mugabe, who turns 92 next month, was hospitalised after collapsing while on holiday in the Far East, started doing the rounds on Monday and escalated on Tuesday, generating global interest, if discussions on social media are anything to go by.

Although Zimbabweans have become accustomed to these rumours, which spread almost every year when Mugabe goes on his annual leave, many believed that perhaps this time the rumour could be true given the president’s deteriorating health and advanced age.

Throughout last year, Zimbabweans were constantly reminded that the only president they have known since independence in 1980 had lost his stamina and was not “as fit as a fiddle”, as his lieutenants would have them believe.

In January, he fell at the Harare International Airport in front of service chiefs, government officials and hundreds of Zanu-PF supporters who had thronged to the airport to congratulate him on being elected chairperson of the African Union – an embarrassing incident that went viral on social media.

In September, questions were asked about his mental state when he read the wrong speech at the official opening of Parliament. It was a repeat of his State of the Nation address in the same house, two weeks earlier, but he did not realise his mistake.

In October, he was saved from falling at the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi by the timely intervention of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nonetheless, the incident was captured live by television cameras and he soon became the butt of jokes on social media.

But perhaps the chief reason why many Zimbabweans believed this week’s rumour was because of a prophecy by Nigerian “prophet” TB Joshua who, on January 3, cryptically stated that 2016 would be a year of trouble for a Southern African president. He prophesised that the trouble would take place between February and April this year.

Many Zimbabweans thought reports about Mugabe collapsing would be a precursor to the problems Joshua prophesised.

“I am being careful so that the press does not misquote me, because the message is very sensitive and some direct words have been replaced to avoid causing panic,” Joshua said in his televised prophecy. “Words such as peculiar are just a replacement of the actual sensitive direct word.

“End of February to April this year, peculiar months for Southern Africa. Organise prayer sessions for the leaders,” he added.

He said he would not reveal anything about the calamity likely to befall the leader because the message was highly sensitive.

Mugabe was not supposed to complete his term of office last year, if one believed the Malawian prophet, Austin Liabunya, who declared in 2014 that the Zimbabwean president would die in 2015.

That Mugabe has neither collapsed, suffered a heart attack nor died may be proof that no other state president has had the proverbial nine lives of a cat that he has. Mugabe has joked about this, stating four years ago that he had beaten Jesus Christ in this regard.

“I have died many times – that’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once,” he said in a televised interview to commemorate his 88th birthday. He was responding to rumours that had surfaced earlier that year suggesting that he had died while on his annual vacation in the Far East.

Many Zimbabweans believe incapacitation or death are the only ways Mugabe will leave power, hence the intense interest that rumours of his ill-health or death generate.

He has been at the helm of Zanu-PF since assuming the party presidency in 1977 and has ruled with an iron fist for 36 years.

Internally, he has ruthlessly dealt with any party official who dares to show presidential ambitions, while surrounding himself with sycophants who are only too willing and ready to serve him blindly.

Party heavyweights such as former politburo members Edgar Tekere and Eddison Zvobgo and former vice-president Joice Mujuru were shown Zanu-PF’s exit door for having presidential ambitions.

Mujuru was expelled from the party after losing the vice-presidency of both the state and Zanu-PF in December 2014.

Opposition parties have attributed Mugabe’s long stay in power to vote rigging and the abuse of state machinery, especially the army and the police, who play a critical role in the electoral process by, among other things, intimidating and harassing opposition supporters and officials.

  That is why the opposition is also keeping a close watch on his health. – Zimbabwe Independent

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