Mr President, longevity is a treasure beyond measure

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa,

Your Excellency, congratulations on your 80th birthday. Given that for many people, 40 years is a lifetime, you rank among the fortunate remnant who have lived to a ripe age. Truly, your longevity is a treasure beyond measure.

Primarily, the gift of life, regardless of how long one lives is indeed precious. It is an absolute double whammy when the years are towering as in your case. Commonly, at the age of 80 years, one’s contemporaries will be conspicuous by faded inscriptions on their tombstones.

A look at the outcome of the census shows that longevity is a privilege that is afforded scantily. With the life expectancy having dropped to below 40 years, your going the long haul is a gladdening privilege. As I see it, it is as gratifying as unconditional love to reach the dotage years.

Your Excellency, it must be awesome to join the league of the few last standing, even among one’s siblings. One of the salient, yet pertinent revelations of the recent census is that those of us in the 65 years plus age group constitute a tiny single digit percentage of the population.

It is my fervent conviction that it dawns on you that your entrance into the second childhood is evidence of benevolence on you.  However, although your faculties are still well co-ordinated, they cannot be taken for granted to continue fully functional for long.

It is a characteristic trait of ageing that disorientation ultimately sets in. Granted, there will always come a time in the life of every geriatric that will be characterised by forgetfulness, even of the simplest things and formally familiar names. They just become disoriented.

Your Excellency, it becomes natural for them to experience a decline of mental alertness and poise. It actually starts in the mid-60s for some people to experience diminishing dexterity. It progressively becomes apparent for them to suffer an inability to think and act timely and rationally.

It is oftentimes around this age group that some senior citizens develop progressive emotional apathy. They suffer from dementia: a deteriorating cognition condition that causes someone to be unable to think clearly or to understand what is real and was is not,

Your Excellency, methinks this ageing-induced debilitation is universal. Its affliction does not spare the king at the expense of the commoner. Little wonder, a medical examination was mandatory prior to the extension of the Chief Justice’s tenure beyond the stipulated 70 years age

It is an eloquent indication of your blessedness that since your assumption of the Presidency, most of the cadres you interred at the National Heroes Acre were far younger than you, hardly 70 years old. It is proof of the magnitude of your enduring longevity.

Be that as it may, frankly; blessedness, just as being talented, thrusts responsibility upon the blessed person. It is an obligation that the blessing must be of benefit to society. It must not be used selfishly, lest the giver of the blessing would be aggrieved.

It was none other than Jesus himself who spoke about each person giving an account of their talents in proportion to their blessedness. It means that the onus is ours to critically self-examine on how socially responsible we were with our blessings.

Your Excellency, essentially, your 80th birthday ought not have been a day like any other, but for meditation. It is through meditation that one can discover the source of wisdom, its value and benefits. It becomes apparent that one’s speeches cumulatively reveal one’s reputation and morality.

Pity, your birthday coincided with a regional engagement. It fell upon the flight crew and your entourage to wish you a happy birthday. At the eminent risk of sounding prophetic, the opportunity cost of meditation on your birthday will have dire consequences for you. 

As I see it, meditation could have ushered you to your turning point. At age 80, it was opportune for you to search your heart and consequently resolve to put country ahead of yourself. It could have been apparent that the endorsements are all vanity.

Your Excellency, it is particularly imperative for you to step down now. Remember, the deposed late former President Robert Mugabe paid dearly for his defiance. He was blind and deaf to voices and visions all around him that were praying him to retire. His staying put turned nasty on him.

He banked on herd instinct endorsements by all the provinces.  Also, the accolade of “Centre of Power”, got into his head. And, to make matters worse, he was puffed by his wife who declared to cart him in a wheelbarrow to go and preside over party and government business.

Yet, you astounded me that you still want to continue working, notwithstanding your being in the second childhood. Responding to the question on how you felt to be 80 years old, you braggingly quipped: “I do not feel any difference from yesterday. I will continue working.”

Your Excellency, with all due respect, this trend of thought is altogether ruinous. It would lead the country to a reputation of the ignominious manner in which Mugabe was ousted. It is a likelihood that must spur Zanu PF into purposely considering succession as a winsome strategy.

Essentially, it is about time cadres were encouraged to speak out with their conscience than the trend of being politically compliant. It was very much undemocratic when not so long ago a cadre who spoke against the party lines on the diaspora vote was roundly denounced.

It was apparently intolerant to the intents and purposes of free and open discourse that he was ridiculed and accused of harbouring presidential ambitions. Methinks intolerance of open mindedness is an untoward element that draws Zanu PF backwards.

It is a cruel irony for a supposed revolutionary party to restrict free thinking and frank dialogue among its rank and file. Given the perpetual socio-economic meltdown, citizenry deserves progressive leadership. It is time we embraced a culture of politics of plurality.

Zimbabwe has a scary history of State-sponsored violence. Truly, the recently twice repeated threats to cut short lives of the opposition are a case in point of the prevalence of violence. Methinks it is time spears were turned to ploughshares.

Granted, it is in plain sight of any rationale person, whose mind is not shackled that giving a five-year presidential mandate to an 80-year-old cadre is by and large retrogressive. It is imperative to initiate propitious customs that safeguard socio-economic development.

There will be honour galore for you should you elect to retire. As I see it, only a mindset unfettered by the “we fought the war mentality”, can inculcate civility.

Your Excellency, as the 2023 harmonised elections beckon, I pray: “Oh peace and prosperity, you have long deserted us! We need harmony, desperately. Oh peace! Abide with us, now and forever more.”

  • Cyprian Muketiwa Ndawana is a public-speaking coach, motivational speaker, speechwriter and newspaper columnist. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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