Could Robert Mugabe be now senile and paranoid about the West?

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Sadly, Mugabe managed to upset Western diplomats at his late sister’s burial at Heroes’ Acre on Sunday 1st August 2010, that they were left with no option but to walk out on him after he hysterically ranted, “To hell with them, to hell, hell, hell with them.” His insensitive and emotional message to the diplomats tallies very well with the infamous jingles that seek to humiliate his inclusive partners.

It was very primitive, un-Christian, un-diplomatic and contrary to Zimbabwean Shona culture for an 86-year-old man who is supposedly wiser to ill-treat his guests and mourners who had come to pay their last respects. Understandably, the death of Sabina who was said to be Mugabe’s most trusted family confidante caused Mugabe enormous distress as he is seen as not having many close friends.

Equally, nobody denies that Zimbabwe was once colonised and experienced a brutal war of resistance culminating in independence in 1980, but that victory should not be claimed by one individual or liberation movement because the whole country played a part in the liberation struggle.

Robert Mugabe’s attack on the West is very regrettable because it only helps to show that he has a very short memory. When the official cholera death toll had reached 570, his regime declared a national emergency on December 4, 2008 and appealed for international help (The Times 05/12/08). Mugabe appealed for help even from Britain which he and his cabinet had arrogantly blamed for Zimbabwe’s problems.

For example, the then Zanu-pf Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was quoted as saying: The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is a serious biological ware force, a genocidal onslaught, on the people of Zimbabwe by the British… Cholera is a calculated, racist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power, which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so they can invade the country,” The Telegraph, 12/12/08).

Despite being featured on Zimbabwe government banners as “Brown’s Cholera” the then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown responded by pledging an additional £10 million to combat the crisis. Maybe, age is a contributing factor to the uncharitable conduct of the Zanu-pf leader. Not long ago, pictures showed Mugabe unsteady on the stairs as he came out of an African Union conference on 27 July 2010 in Kampala Uganda. Aides were seen to be rushing to support him.

Well before the much dreaded talk of regime change, on the eve of his 80th birthday, Mugabe, announced that he would retire as president of Zimbabwe within five years, but he seems to have given up on that promise. Many people wonder what else he still wants to accomplish which he has failed to achieve in his 30 years in power.

In February 2004 veteran journalist Bill Saidi once commented “At 80 Gushungo is no spring chicken …In a country where life expectancy has been reduced to just over 40 years, turning 80 can be real cause for celebration.”

Ironically, when Mugabe revealed to the ZBC at his lavish 80th birthday celebration that a presidential cook had attempted to kill him by putting ground glass in his food, he dismissed any Western imperialism. “I do not think it was anything to do with Western imperialism”, he said, adding “Western imperialism is much more thorough than that. I think it was just some internal thing…”(Dow Jones Newswires, 21/02/04).

However, Saidi posed a very interesting question: “How do Zimbabweans feel about being ruled by an octogenarian?” Based on Mugabe’s public utterances, it would be fair comment to say that at 86, he is now evidently showing more signs of ”the creeping pangs of senility” or paranoia about the West, targeted sanctions and regime change. Inevitably, he has earned some disciples along the way.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, London UK, Political analyst, ([email protected]).

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