PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe turns 91 today, making him the oldest President to lead a country in the world amid pressure from opposition parties and analysts for him to rest.
BY MOSES MATENGA/SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
Mugabe will today celebrate his birthday at a time the ruling Zanu PF party was enmeshed in serious infighting that has also crippled central government operations.
The President’s health has also been subject to scrutiny and was recently worsened by his fall at Harare International Airport. After his ignominious fall, he slipped out of the country to Singapore last week for a medical check-up.
Opposition parties and analysts said that Mugabe’s time to retire had come and that he should rest as the country’s economic collapse required someone with the strength to deal with the challenges.
But Zanu PF maintains that Mugabe was still fit to rule, adding that he would be its candidate for the 2018 Presidential election.
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said while it was important to celebrate Mugabe’s birthday, the time had come for him to rest to enable the country to arrest the current “constitutional crisis” where First Lady Grace Mugabe appeared to have taken control of both Zanu PF and government.
“We have maintained as a party that the State House is not an old people’s home,” Mafume said.
“Zanu PF wants to turn it into an old people’s home and it defies logic that at 91, someone wants to remain President. In China, you need to be 70 or less to be a leader and Mugabe is 21 years older than that. Our position is he should be celebrating his birthday privately where it is safe and not active in politics.”
Mafume added: “It is now a national security issue where we have the wife of a President appearing to have taken over control because the husband is old. We must allow the President to rest in dignity. We need our collective heads in a non-partisan manner to allow him to rest. It’s illogical to make a 91-year-old person run the country when it’s a surprise for him to walk from his car to a Cabinet meeting without falling.”
National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson Maddock Chivasa also said Mugabe’s age was proof enough that the veteran leader and his party were for the archives.
“As a party, we feel that at his age, it’s a clear sign for Zanu PF to go not him alone. They belong to history and do not represent the future that needs new parties,” Chivasa said.
Analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said at 91, Mugabe’s concentration was now on personal issues rather than national issues to address the people’s concerns.
“At 91, he is concentrating more on some personal issues like avoiding falling and there is no future for the people being led by a 91-year-old,” he said.
On the celebration of his birthday, Ruhanya said: “It is authoritarian just like in North Korea where the birthday of the leader is of national significance. It is very absurd and it tells you the nature of the leadership is consistent with authoritarianism. Why should a person celebrate the birthday of the President when there is 80% unemployment? Why should a person in Zaka who has not been employed all his life when he has all the necessary qualifications for employment celebrate?”
University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said anything that was celebrating any particular individual was bound to lose track if it was not institutionalised.
“I do not see that movement living beyond the person that is being honoured. When it was launched, Mugabe had led the movement that had liberated the country from the colonial regime and that was part of the package,” Masunungure said.
“But the movement has lost its way and is now used for the expression of hero-worshiping. There is widespread deprivation and no congruence between the original motivation of the movement and what is happening now. My fear is that it cannot be institutionalised beyond him. Maybe they will have to rename it to the next President.”
Masunungure said the ruling party was not bothered by calls for Mugabe to resign in the face of accusations of failing to turn around the fortunes of the country.
Although Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo could not be reached for comment, he is on record saying that the ruling party is there to stay forever.