PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday spoke out on his much-publicised fall at Harare International Airport on Wednesday soon after his return from Addis Ababa where he assumed the African Union chairmanship, describing the incident as “just a slip”.
by MOSES MATENGA
Mugabe, who proceeded to chair Cabinet yesterday, appeared unhurt following the dramatic fall which attracted international headlines with observers linking the tumble to old age and deteriorating health.
In what seemed to be a damage control measure after the veteran leader’s fall in front of Cabinet ministers and party heavy-weights, Mugabe’s pictures greeting ministers before a Cabinet meeting yesterday went viral on social media.
The 90-year-old leader’s spokesperson George Charamba said Mugabe arrived at the Munhumutapa offices around 9:30am and walked up a flight of stairs to the Cabinet room unaided to chair a Cabinet meeting. This was after he joked with ministers and other senior government officials, said Charamba.
“His Excellency the President Cde R G Mugabe reported for work at his Munhumutapa offices this morning around 0930 hours, to chair a session of Cabinet. This follows an incident yesterday at Harare International Airport, a while after his arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when he missed a step and slipped,” Charamba said.
“Today, as he got off his car, I snatched a short conversation with him at the foyer of the Munhumutapa Building.”
Charamba reportedly asked the President if he was okay after the fall on Wednesday to which he responded “light heartedly” saying: “Why?. . . I am okay, it was just a slip.”
Mugabe’s fall made international news headlines with videos and pictures of the 90-year-old veteran leader going viral on social media. Pictures showed Mugabe tumbling while his ministers and security personnel watched helplessly.
But Charamba said: “He walked unaided all the time. In the room, he greeted and bantered with his ministers on one side of the Oval table, as he made his way to seat. Before taking his seat, he greeted his two deputies, and gestured a greeting to the rest of the members of Cabinet sitting on the other side.”
Observers, however, blamed Mugabe’s fall on loss of concentration from his aides who could have avoided the incident had they been alert. They said it was the duty of the President’s security to ensure there was alertness on Mugabe given his advanced age.
Mugabe’s fall was a hot subject of social media debate yesterday, with some saying there was nothing newsworthy about it as everyone has fallen at one time or another, while others described the incident as embarrassing, calling on Zimbabwe’s sole leader since independence to retire from politics.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo said Mugabe’s fall was caused by a carpet that was not laid out properly and was unavoidable, insisting that even Jesus could have fallen under the circumstance.
“The hump on which the President tripped was formed by two pieces of the carpet which apparently had not been laid out properly where they joined,” Moyo told NewZimbabwe.com
“And to be honest with you, even Jesus, let alone you, would have also tripped in that kind of situation.”
Mugabe was without his wife Grace, who is said to be recovering after undergoing surgery in the Far East. Grace is usually alert on Mugabe with senior government officials yesterday saying in her absence, his security should have stayed even closer to him to ensure his safety.
NewsDay was reliably informed yesterday that although Mugabe and some officials appeared to be publicly taking the incident lightly, it was a serious security issue that would see those who were supposed to be closely monitoring his movement in trouble.
Mugabe, who turns 91 this month, has been reported to be having health problems associated with his age and has frequented the Far East to get specialised treatment. The government has confirmed he underwent several operations to remove cataracts in his eyes while other media reports suggested he had gone under the knife for prostate cancer.