FOOTAGE — which went viral on social media — of President Robert Mugabe struggling to go over a small tread on his way to the podium at the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi, India, yesterday, while almost stumbling in the process as security aides and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the rescue was reminiscent of his dramatic tumble at Harare International Airport in February.
Editor’s Memo by Dumisani Muleya
Looking at Mugabe (91) being assisted to ascend the dais further confirmed and drove home the message that he is now just too old and infirm, suggesting he is no longer fit to govern at all.
Buffeted by ill-health and frailty, Mugabe can longer continue pretending to be as fit as a butcher’s dog. His infirmity as a nonagenarian is now visible and indisputable. By continuing to deny it, Mugabe and his publicists are now only helping to caricature him, while further damaging his image — whatever is left of it.
In fact, yesterday’s incident is a serious indictment on Mugabe and Zimbabwe as a country.
This year has been particularly bad for Mugabe. His unexpected roller-coaster in Nigeria in May after an ambush by local journalists who confronted him over when he will quit during his counterpart Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration showed he has now fallen from grace to grass.
And then in August, Mugabe was booed and heckled by opposition MPs in parliament during a state of the nation address, creating a sad spectacle and pitiful sight.
Last month he read a wrong speech at the official opening of parliament, also proving he has lost grip on reality and his memory was faltering.
While a new generation of much younger Sadc leaders continues to come and go, Mugabe is still hanging onto power by his fingernails despite reducing Zimbabwe to an economic shambles and a sea of poverty.
While Mugabe was almost stumbling in India, Tanzania’s ruling party candidate John Magufuli won hotly contested presidential elections, becoming the country’s fifth post-independence leader, even if the opposition said the vote was rigged and also claimed victory.
Across the region, there has been in recent years many changes in leadership in countries like Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa, except in Zimbabwe and Angola.
What is even more worrying though in Zimbabwe’s case is that Mugabe is not thinking of going anywhere yet even if he is now unable to cope with his hectic schedule and overtaxing duties.
To show that he is only thinking about himself and not the interests of the nation and his people as he always claims, Mugabe last December told the Zanu PF congress: “I am here for as long as I am still sane, with good memory and will power.”
However, yesterday it was a touching moment to see Modi extending a hand to Mugabe who seemed to lose his balance while trying to walk over a step to the stage and almost tumbling.
Modi immediately came forward and held him by the hand as security aides helped move him forward. The episode showed Mugabe is now damaged goods.
Sadly, as a result, focus shifted onto Mugabe’s drama away from a lot of progressive things discussed during the summit, including Modi’s announcement that his country will provide a US$10 billion concessional credit to Africa in the next five years, alongside with a US$600 million grant assistance.
Modi said the credit line will be in addition to the ongoing credit programme in Africa, adding that the grant assistance includes an India-Africa Development Fund of US$100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of US$10 million.
The assistance will also include 50 000 scholarships available in India over the next five years to support expansion of institutions for enhancing skills, training and learning in Africa’s 54 countries.
After this it’s now more clear Mugabe must just quit in his own, his family and national interest.