SPEAKING on boxing legend Muhammed Ali’s classic 1974 bout against champion George Foreman in Zaire (now DRC) — dubbed the Rumble in the Jungle — Ali’s trainer, the late Angelo Dundee, said he could tell Foreman “was ready to go” in the later rounds of the fight as he appeared tired and dazed, worn out from repeatedly failing to hit his target.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
Ali, the underdog, sensationally knocked out the exhausted Foreman in the eighth of the 12-round bout to become world heavyweight champion.
A week ago, this year’s instalment of President Mugabe’s annual birthday interview, titled Reflections @ 91, was televised as usual. While it turned out to be a long, rumbling and at times a soporific affair, it was more useful for what Mugabe failed to say rather than what he disclosed. It was instructive on several fronts.
Fit for his advanced age, Mugabe largely reflected his 91 years. His body language was strikingly subdued; he appeared drowsy, making a conscious effort to concentrate and enunciate words audibly. He appeared to be merely going through the motions.
The rigours of the highest office in the land and age appear to have dealt him heavy blows amid futile attempts to breathe life into the sinking economy. To borrow Dundee’s phrase, from the interview Mugabe appeared “ready to go”.
Having presided over a succession of political, social and economic crises Mugabe, who in 2003 during Zimbabwe’s debilitating fuel crisis complained of “headaches and stomach aches”, did not convince the nation he has a plan to steer the country back on the rails of normality.
It is little wonder the interview, mostly a feel-good PR exercise, avoided a host of pressing issues confronting Zimbabweans, among them company closures, job losses, infrastructural collapse and service non-delivery.
Instead, Mugabe indulged in more bashing of Mujuru and Co, routine anti-West bluster, gave longevity and health tips including sour milk which “I started taking in 1939” and sporadic jokes, but little on how far government has gone in implementing the economic blueprint, ZimAsset, save for outlining bits and pieces of the ZimAsset jigsaw.
Nothing to really inform impoverished Zimbabweans on where precisely the country is headed or, for that matter, when the Zanu PF government will achieve its electoral promises.
Surprisingly, despite his spin-doctor’s insistence Mugabe never really fell after recently taking a tumble at the airport, the president agreed he had a “slight fall”, further confirming he has fallen many times at his house as has been rumoured.
Despite laughing this off, surely Mugabe must be concerned at the potential for serious injury given his age despite famously saying he had the bones of a 28-year-old when he was 82.
In a similar interview last year, Mugabe said he was not ready to go as he still had unfinished business — no doubt missed targets — to sort out before stepping down.
Like the typical boxer, Mugabe clearly does not know when it’s time to quit.