PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe for the first time made an unwitting yet stunning admission he belongs to a bygone generation and era when he said his colleagues in government are “children” during an interview with state media last week on the eve of his birthday celebrations in Bindura.
Editor’s Memo with Dingilizwe Ntuli
“Why is it that all my friends are gone and my relatives are gone and I continue to linger on?” Mugabe told ZBC TV. “Then I say to myself, well, it’s not my choice, its God’s choice. This is a task the Lord might have wanted me to fulfill among my people. I read it as a bidding of God… The bidding says you move forward ever.”
Quite apart from increasingly absurd claims which Mugabe and his loyalists are now repeating with disturbing frequency that he has a divine mandate to continue ruling, the president made an interesting and revealing disclosure that he feels lonely because his real contemporaries are now gone, leaving him to deal with “children”.
He says his cabinet colleagues are “children” in terms of longevity, knowledge and experience.
Mugabe cited Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa as being closest at 77 years old. He also lamented not being able to reminisce with colleagues about chasing girls and riding bicycles in the 1930s and 1950s.
Mugabe’s true contemporaries were the likes of Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and Herbert Chitepo. Nationalists such as Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole and Leopold Takawira were slightly older than him.
All of them are gone and he is the only high profile political leader remaining from that generation.
So for that reason Mugabe’s remarks are understandable, but very revealing. While Mugabe might have been expressing his genuine feelings and nostalgia, he in the process finally admitted, albeit unwittingly, that he is now too old and belongs to yesteryear’s generation.
Put differently, Mugabe confirmed inadvertently that he now needs to go and rest. There has never been such a compelling call for Mugabe to go than the one he made unintentionally.
For years now, Zimbabweans have been urging Mugabe to quit, partly because he has played his part, ruined the country, and also on age and health grounds.
Indeed, in the same interview he admitted as much that he has suffered so much “wear and tear” that he is now feeling the impact, especially given his hectic schedule as head of state and government.
Surely calling Media minister Webster Shamu (67) a child is ludicrous, a reflection of Mugabe’s old age and the generation gap with his colleagues. Officials of Shamu’s age, whom Mugabe is describing as kids, are the generation in power across Sadc and around the world.
Putting aside United States President Barack Obama who was born in 1961 when Mugabe was already in politics, nearly all Sadc leaders are not in Mugabe’s generation in terms of age and years in power. Only Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos belongs to Mugabe’s era in some respects. He has been in power for 34 years, compared to Mugabe’s 33, but is 19 years younger at 70.
Outgoing Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is the only regional leader closest to Mugabe’s age at 81. South African President Jacob Zuma is 71, Botswana’s Ian Khama (60), Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba (77), in other words Mutasa’s age, Zambia’s Michael Sata (76), Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza (70) and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete (62).
Look at the gap in government –– Vice-President Joice Mujuru is 57 years and her main rival for the Zanu PF leadership Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is 66, at least officially. If their generation cannot rule now, then at what age must they come in?
Mugabe is the world’s second oldest head of state after Shimon Peres of Israel who turns 90 in August.
The only other octogenarian heads of state are Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (88); Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis (88), Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (87), Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (86) and Thailand King Bhumipol Adulyadej (85). It’s time to go Mr President.