Combative presidential spokesperson George Charamba on Thursday angered President Robert Mugabe after he gave him a “wrong” speech, which the 87-year-old statesman realised before delivering his keynote address at the revolutionary party’s 12th annual conference in Bulawayo.
President Mugabe was visibly outraged by Charamba’s inexplicable action of giving him a Shona version of the speech he had altered departing from the standard English.
The four-minute drama unfolded soon after President Mugabe took to the podium, but immediately paused because he was baffled by the version of the speech.
However, it turned out President Mugabe, who repeatedly asked for his version, was sold a “dummy”. Sources told NewsDay that instead of President Mugabe being given copies of an English version of his speech where he had reportedly made alterations, a Shona version was tucked into his folder.
President Mugabe noticed the gaffe soon after his introductory slogans.
He quickly turned to his aide who was about a metre away and asked for Charamba, who is an outstanding issue in the Global Political Agreement because of his uncouth antics.
It was at that point that Charamba, who might have sensed danger, dashed to the podium where there was a tongue-lashing for about four minutes with President Mugabe looking irritated.
During his speech, papers scattered all over the floor and the President seemed not to care. His aide battled to pick up the papers, but the octogenarian, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, seemed unperturbed.
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The usually confrontational Charamba, who is said to have caused mayhem in the media fraternity, was visibly weak-kneed after he failed to provide an explanation for his inadequacies.
He was captured by journalists’ microphones pitched at the podium taking responsibility for the mess.
The incident was reminiscent of a gaffe by French President Nicolas Sarkozy who described Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “a liar” in a private exchange with US President Barack Obama in a conversation that was inadvertently broadcast to journalists.
When the drama was unravelling, Charamba, sporting a red T-shirt, was seen bowing his head before President Mugabe with his hand on his chest in an apologetic posture.
Sources told NewsDay that Charamba could be in deep trouble over the embarrassing boob.
The commotion saw delegates and journalists dropping jaws.
Strenuous efforts to get a comment from Charamba were fruitless on Friday.
During his address President Mugabe hardly cared about the speech making his additions at will. He mainly spoke off the cuff.
Deep into his speech which dwelt much on Libya, Charamba turned into a technician, adjusting the microphones at the podium, though the sound was clear.
President Mugabe basically mourned slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi although he mocked him, saying he was naïve for wining and dining with the West and Europe.