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The Umpteenth Resurrection Of Robert Mugabe

The Umpteenth Resurrection Of Robert Mugabe
  • PublishedMay 8, 2012

Speculation over President Robert Mugabe’s health has become as much political fodder as his controversial 32-year rule of Zimbabwe. But in the past month, while on a private visit to Singapore with his family, rumours of his death went into overdrive. Tichaona Zindoga reports on the undying saga of a man who says he has “beaten Jesus to the act of resurrection”.

It is becoming increasingly common for the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, to be called upon to deal with more than just the country’s troubled politics and economy. April 2012 was one of the most intriguing times in the life of the 88-year-old leader. “Mugabe on his deathbed in Singapore,” was the default headline used by even respected international newspapers as the rumour mill and press speculation over his health went viral, both online and in print.

A “prophecy” by the Nigerian preacher, Temitope Balogun Joshua, that an African leader would die, which apparently came true when the death of Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika was announced on 6 April, did not help the situation.

Some had speculated, or rather wished, that TB Joshua (as he is popularly known) had Mugabe in mind. A local Zimbabwean newspaper even ran a series of articles on “a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe”, which was clearly not a fortuitous move.

Several other media outlets in and outside the country pontificated that Mugabe had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed him.

But is Mugabe worried about the rumours about his ill health and death? The answer is “No!” In fact, Mugabe wittily laughs off these rumours. On the eve of his birthday on 21 February, Mugabe jokingly said that he had “beaten” Jesus Christ to the practice of dying and rising from the dead.

“I have died many times – that’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once.” Mugabe added that those who spread rumours about his death did not come out in the open to announce his “resurrection”.

But for all the flurry of speculation about his deathbed, on 12 April at exactly 5am GMT, the president came home “as fit as a fiddle” (according to British newspaper the Daily Mail) and although he did not address the hoard of journalists who gathered at the airport, he was seen smiling and bantering with the party and cabinet officials who came to meet him. It was left to the information minister, Webster Shamu, to describe the rumours as “lies told by a press driving an imperialist agenda.”

Hours later, Mugabe addressed his cabinet, where he reportedly went round the room shaking everybody’s hand. Sydney Chisi, who works for a generally anti-Mugabe think-tank called “Crisis in Zimbabwe”, concedes that the never-ending rumours about Mugabe’s health are a sign of desperation.

“It highlights [the fact] that politicians in Zimbabwe have failed to define a route of life after Mugabe, or even to remove him from power…that they now pin their hopes on forces they can’t control, including God,” he told New African.

Chisi added: “The speculations are made by media houses and journalists who have become political commissars of certain formations and they have lost credibility after the President touched down at the airport and went straight into a cabinet meeting.”

There have been WikiLeaks-based reports alleging that Mugabe confidante and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono told an American envoy that Mugabe had prostate cancer that might kill him in 2013.

Keen interest has also followed Mugabe when he goes for medical check-ups in and outside the country. But life goes on for the president. Last year, he even mockingly dared a female journalist who had been writing negative stories about his health, to a fight.

Questions abound about just what the secret to his long life is. The veteran leader puts it down to philosophy, genes, and choosing healthy living.

“Life is what you make it, they say,” he said in a birthday interview broadcast on national television. “But it’s not always what you make it. You have a part of it which is inherited – the physical entity which we inherit from our parents, so the genetic system is inherited from what your parents gave you. But there are things that you must do for yourself. Don’t drink … or if you want to drink don’t drink too much, but I would say don’t drink at all. Yeah, don’t smoke at all. When you smoke, the nicotine goes to your lungs; it’s a sure case that your lungs are inhaling…”

Mugabe also advocates healthy eating, and avoiding extramarital affairs as some of the secrets to good health. He also exercises each morning for an hour. He might also rely on the man he says he beat – Jesus – as Mugabe is a practising Christian!

With the latest round of speculation falling on its face, the focus has somewhat shifted from Mugabe to an indictment of the rumour-mongering media.

In an article entitled “Journalism in the dock as Mugabe returns”, a website quoted former Zimbabwe Mirror editor Chofamba Sithole as saying: “The global media’s morbid interest in the mortality of one Robert Mugabe supersedes all journalistic ethos. It seems … all the big media outlets shamelessly rested their claims on the frail shoulders of a pathetic citizen news site bereft of all credibility quoting a faceless source.”

Sithole added: “Journalists failed to test the credibility of the story. For instance, what was the name of this Singaporean hospital? Were there any signs of heightened security outside it? Had anyone from the Mugabe family been seen leaving or entering this hospital? What comes across is that no news outlet seems to have invested any journalistic effort in uncovering the basic facts about this story.”

There is now a backlash from the “deathbed” story. The Zimbabwe Mail website, which gave the story legs, now says it is firing its news editor for writing a story based on rumour. It has also taken down the story from the website. Many others have followed suit, withdrawing their reports, although a few – with a lot of egg on their faces – still maintain that Mugabe is unwell.

Written By
New African

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