President Robert Mugabe’s fall on Wednesday at Harare International Airport brings his ageing and frail health under scrutiny especially soon after he came from a six weeks Far East holiday which he also used to get a full medical checkup.
Mugabe health is not only of concern to Zimbabwe alone as he recently assumed chairmanship of African Union and Sadc making him the continent’s fore-most statesman. Despite his advanced age, 91 in a fortnight, and ailing health he has become the contact person for the region and continent with multilateral institutions, China, the EU and United States in addition to running Zimbabwe.
The fall shocked his security for they were momentarily numb before they reacted when Mugabe was on all fours. They shielded him from the prying camera lenses but the moment had already been frozen by new technological gadgets.
Security details swiftly swooped on journalists and asked them to delete any images of the falling or fallen President from their cameras. The draconian action smacked of a hidden agenda that the citizens and the world should not know that Mugabe,most probably the oldest leader on the African continent if not the whole world is human and once in a while tumbles.
Government spokesman Jonathan Moyo tried to give the incident a spin which when he tried to water down the event.
“What happened is that the President tripped over a hump on the carpet on one of the steps of the dais as he was stepping down from the platform, but he managed to break the fall on his own. I repeat he managed to break the fall,” Moyo, a political science professor said.
This is despite of the pictorial evidence that Mugabe went on all fours when he stumbled.
Moyo added, “In the circumstances, there is nothing really to write home about the nonsensical celebrations by malcontents who are imagining the fall that never was since it was actually broken by the President himself.”
The secrecy surrounding Mugabe’s health since 1980 has portrayed an image of a superman, he has never been reported ill and never off sick in 35 years at the helm of the republic.
Mugabe may be realising that he is mortal and on his return from Malaysia last month in an off the cuff speech told the country his family had medical chekups during the pro-longed holiday. He further revealed that they have been doing this on all their annual holidays to the Far East and this time Grace, the First Lady, had an operation of the appendix. Grace is still convalescing in Malaysia.
Wednesday’s mishap while being a common happening to most leaders may have been amplified by his advanced age and concern surrounding his failing health.
Mugabe last year flew more than five times to Malaysia ostensibly to get medical attention for his eye cataracts according to official reports from his office. However, speculation is high that he may be suffering from prostate cancer a common disease among the aged.
This is the second time Mugabe has fallen in public. He once fell off a staircase in Malaysia in 2000 and cut his head above the eye that required six stiches.
The incident happened at the Langkawi International Dialogue which brings together government and business leaders from Africa and other developing states.
The obfuscation of the fall by state media further fuels interest among the citizens to know what really happened. For the first time Mugabe’s health may be continuously be under the microscope as the world watches the oldest leader taking on multiple demanding busy roles at local, regional and continental levels.