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Africa's longest surviving leader still strong at 93

Zimbawbe President Robert Mugabe reads a birthday card this week Zimbawbe President Robert Mugabe reads a birthday card this week

Robert Mugabe will stand for elections next year

February 23, 2017

Derick Matsengarwodzi

Harare,  Zimbabwe: Ralph Burgess Tarrant, who lived until 110 years said the secret to long life was, “enjoying vices as well as much as virtues,” and to “stay active and stay interested.”  

Africa’s senior statesman, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who attained 93 years on 21 February, has political interests spanning decades – and still counting. Embedded among the continent’s longest serving leaders, he has confirmed his presidential candidacy for the 2018 plebiscite when he turns 94. 

“They want me to stand for elections, they want me stand for elections everywhere in the party. And it’s their voice I heed and the voice of no one else. Of course, if I feel like I can’t do it anymore, I will say so to my party so that they relieve me,” revealed Mugabe in an interview marking his birthday.     

Confirming his influence, Mugabe became the African Union chair in 2015, aged 90, setting a record for the continental gathering. 

Long life

The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences revealed that, “people who attended religious services were 46 percent less likely to die during the six year study. Believing in God, regardless of which faith you are – boots your lifespan.”

Mugabe is a sworn Catholic. On his birthday, a priest paid him a visit for prayer.  

With a life expectancy of 34 – Harare is not Okinawa, the remote Japanese islands celebrated for the world’s highest proportion of centenarians, but having a man beyond 90 years remains a national pride.   

Zanu-PF national youth leader, Kudzai Chipanga, elected to equate Mugabe’s anniversary to ‘Christmas’. 

“To us, February 21 is not just a day. To us, it is a special day in the same manner Christians treat December 25, the birthday of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to be blasphemous, but in my humble view, President Mugabe is second to Jesus Christ. He is our saviour, so his birthday means a lot for us the youths of Zimbabwe,” Chipanga was quoted saying.  

In Chipanga’s conviction, Mugabe’s cardinal sin remains the land issue, for which he was ‘crucified’. 

To cement the agrarian ‘salvation’, farmers are encouraged to donate 150 beasts of cattle to feed 100 000 invited guests. At night, fans will be treated to a musical gala, graced by various artists with penned tributes for their leader.         

Forgoing their financial status, individuals and government departments flooded the national broadcaster – Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC) with advertorials on Mugabe’s birthday.   

Opposition attacks 

Opposition politicians have suggested that the celebrations be shelved and funds channeled towards rehabilitation of dilapidated roads. But party stalwarts’ say their decision cannot be overtaken, insisting the February 21st movement, initiated in 1986 will proceed. 

“Just contrast this misappropriation of resources to what Tanzania’s President John Magufuli did, even cancelling an important event as independence celebrations, and allocating the money to issues such as ensuring access to health for the people,” Welshman Ncube, an opposition leader said. 

Sadly, on Mugabe’s birthday, Europe decided to renew sanctions against the first family.

“We have engaged Europe and we hoped sooner than later they would remove sanctions upon the head of state. They don’t have and did not state reasons for the renewed sanctions,” moaned Samuel Mbengegwi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.     


Last modified onThursday, 23 February 2017 14:22