By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
20 January 2014
Images showing a frail-looking President Robert Mugabe at his sister’s memorial service held at State House have emerged, quashing rumours of his death.
Mugabe’s sister Bridget died of heart failure on Sunday at Parirenyatwa Hospital, where she had been admitted after she collapsed three years ago.
Although Mugabe appears visibly tired and frail the images – which include a video clip in which one of his legs is captured shaking – dispelled runaway rumours that the veteran leader was either dead or in a vegetative state.
Mugabe, who turns 90 in three weeks, was last seen in public on December 8th during the burial of Brigadier Misheck Tanyanyiwa at the Heroes Acre.
At the end of December presidential spokesman George Charamba announced that Mugabe was heading off to Singapore on his annual holiday.
But rumours that Mugabe had died swirled after cyber rabble rouser Baba Jukwa claimed that Mugabe had collapsed, prompting spirited denials from party officials.
Many Zimbabweans believe that Mugabe takes regular trips to the Far East to seek medical attention for suspected prostate cancer. His aides insist that their leader is “as fit as a fiddle”. There are even rumours that Mugabe, who has always seemed too spritely and agile for someone of his age, is in fact 10 years younger.
Political commentator Ndaba Nhuku said the latest pictures confirm what most Zimbabweans have been saying all along, that Mugabe should retire.
“The images do not cast the Head of State in good light,” Nhuku told SW Radio Africa Monday.
“Mugabe is elderly, and surely no-one should continue to expect him to shoulder the duties of the nation at his advanced age.
“I agree with most people that the ZANU PF should re-examine its continued stance of keeping Mugabe in power, that is, if he still commands any power within the party. The majority of us want our president to retire,” Nhuku said.
“However we should also remember that elderly as he is, the nation and the opposition parties handed ZANU PF and its ailing leader the mandate to rule.
“So at national level, the onus is on the ruling party to do the right thing and deal with its leadership issues and ask President Mugabe to retire.
“Zimbabwe needs a young energetic leader. Mugabe’s health issues, whether age-related or disease-related, should be of great concern not only to the citizenry but to the party as well,” Nhuku added.
Nixon Nyikadzino of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the real concern was that Mugabe was too old to run the affairs of the state, not so much whether or not Mugabe is alive and in good health.
“The real issue is that he has outlived his purpose in office. As a country we need constitutional mechanisms that will prohibit officials of a certain age from clinging on to public office,” Nyikadzino said.
“Zimbabwe is now the only non-monarchy that is headed by someone who is almost 90, and who is expected to make daily decisions about state affairs.
“His capacity to do so becomes questionable, especially if we consider how he looks in the latest images. He is now 25 years over the official age of retirement.”
Nyikadzino said Mugabe should accept that he is old and be thinking about resting, rather than continuously pretending to be an energetic young man.
He also blamed top ZANU PF officials who he said were encouraging a frail Mugabe to remain in power as they continue to loot State resources.