A multitude of problems assail him at every turn: a dying economy, a restive population, an unflattering legacy, and failing health.
At 93 years of age, repeated efforts by his publicists to convince the public the president is still fit to govern, latest information shows that behind the scenes it is no longer business as usual for him — his situation is fast deteriorating and panic is rife.
President Mugabe, recently in Singapore for medical review and treatment, is now barely able to function, and his worsening ill-health problems have now become a clear and present danger to government functionality and the security of the nation.
“Bureaucrats like George Charamba (the president’s spokesman) can say whatever they want, but the truth is Mugabe is now hardly able to function properly given the strenuous demands of his position,” a senior government official, close to Mugabe’s family, said.
“The old man is facing so many problems; diminished eyesight or vision impairment, a serious loss of vision in other words. This has greatly decreased his ability to see to a point where this is no longer fixable by usual means, such as glasses or contact lenses.
“Because of old age and associated complications, there has been a noticeable decline in his cognitive abilities, including thinking, memory and speech skills.”
Those inside Mugabe’s circle also say on top of waning vision, he is barely able to walk and needs support most of the time. This has led to his family and close security aides beefing up support around him.
These days Mugabe is often seen in public surrounded by a mob of security aides – at least five — moving closely around him. Insiders say this is a new security strategy designed to prevent him from stumbling or falling due to aggravated frailty. It is also aimed at protecting him from close public scrutiny, over and above providing him with normal security, insiders say.
Although government insists Mugabe is mainly suffering from eye cataracts, which have greatly diminished his eyesight and severely degraded his capacity to work, the story of him having prostate cancer which has metastasized has refused to go away, particularly given his increasing shuttles to Singapore.
Since last December when he went for his annual holidays in South East Asia, Mugabe has increased his public and below the radar visits to Singapore. While he was on holiday in China and later in Dubai, it is said he went for medical treatment out of the public eye. He also made several public visits there since January. Besides the eyesight problems, insiders say Mugabe is increasingly finding it difficult to walk, get out of a car without assistance and unable to climb even very small steps.
In order to stop him from falling in public, like he did at Harare International Airport in February 2015 shortly after his arrival from the African Union summit, the number of close security aides around him has been increased.
“While a decade ago, he used to climb Air Zimbabwe flight boarding steps almost running, he is now unable climb very small or low steps. As a result a lift has had to be installed for him to be able to attend cabinet and access his offices on the first floor of Munhumutapa Building,” another official said. “The situation is very serious and his aides are the ones who keep him going.”
Government officials say Mugabe’s health problems have become a national security issue and a major political factor, especially on his succession battles.
Once a shining beacon of democracy and good governance, Zimbabwe has slowly but surely slumped into the laughing stock it is today.
Mugabe recenty told a World Economic Forum panel discussion in Durban, South Africa, on fragile States that Zimbabwe was the second most developed country on the continent after South Africa, drawing brickbats from opposition parties and critics who accused him of running down the country.
With over 4 million citizens living on donor food handouts, industrial production virtually non-existent and citizens living in bank queues to access cash, Mugabe’s claims were viewed as indicating detachment from reality.
Opposition MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party felt sorry for Mugabe “who is living in dreamland.”
“Mugabe is in denial. He needs to come back to reality. The country is sinking deeper into a political and socio-economic hell-hole each day he remains in office,” Gutu said.
“….you are irreplaceable President. You will rule from your grave at the Heroes Acre because you are a uniting force for us,” First Lady Grace Mugabe …
“Mugabe isn’t bothered because he spends most of his time in Singapore or Dubai, accessing the best medical treatment that money can buy. Back home in Zimbabwe, the public health delivery system is a complete shambles, the road and railway infrastructure has virtually collapsed and ordinary people can’t even access their money from the banks because of the grinding cash shortage.”
Socio-political commentator and legal expert Alex Magaisa accused Mugabe of hypocrisy.
“This confirms a familiar pattern of hypocrisy, where the leader extols the virtues of a country, while choosing services from foreign countries. He goes to Singapore because it has an advanced medical system, which he has failed to provide to the rest of his fellow citizens back home,” Magaisa said.
“It’s an Animal Farm scenario where some animals are considered more equal than others. Zimbabwe may not be fragile to him and his immediate circle, but for the rest of the citizens it is a severely depleted and impecunious State.”
The People’s Democratic Party in a statement also said Mugabe’s ignorance was “itself a crisis”.
“The suggestion that Zimbabwe is Africa’s second most developed economy is pathological and reflective of exhaustion, cognitive dissonance and dementia. As a foreign-based President who once in a while visits the country he claims to lead, he probably mistakes Zimbabwe for Malaysia or Singapore where he spends much of his time,” the opposition party said.
Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said Mugabe was demonstrating the arrogance of power.
“His statement just demonstrates the arrogance of power that is a defining characteristic of the Zanu PF leadership. They misrule the country and still have the temerity to lie to the world about the state of affairs,” Mukonza said.
With failing health and advanced age, Mugabe’s visits to the Far East have become even more frequent.
Zanu PF senior officials say the rising agitation in the party for an extraordinary congress this year is mainly fuelled by Mugabe’s deteriorating health and fears he may not be able to be a viable candidate in next year’s elections.
“His health is no longer just a medical issue, it is now a security and political matter,” a Zanu PF official said. “It impacts on the political and security situation in the country, and hence it has become the main factor in determining decisions on the extraordinary congress and who will be the party’s candidate in next year’s elections.”
Image: UN Dispatch