Now, where are those Zimbabweans wishing Africa’s oldest sitting president was dead? The 92-year-old President Mugabe said don’t waste your time as he is still alive and bubbling.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has on Thursday lashed out at potential successors who wish to see him dead anytime soon. To them, he says “I am not dying, shame on you”
Speaking to a meeting of about 10,000 veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war, President Mugabe talked about how his trips to Malaysia and Singapore had the media spreading rumour of his ill-health and possible death and how the ruling Zanu-PF is engaged with a fresh fight on who succeeds him.
“You then see a stampede now, they will be saying the president is dying. I am not dying, shame on you,” Mugabe said during the first ever such meeting with the veterans. He added that only Zimbabweans have the right to send him out.
“I am there at the mercy of the people. If the people say no, go, I go. But if the people say no, we still want you, I stay on,” he said at a sports center in Harare.
Thursday’s meeting came at a time of high tensions in ZANU-PF as party officials position themselves as possible successors of Mugabe. But the 92-year-old reiterate that his successor would be decided democratically and that his wife, Grace, would not automatically inherit the role.
Mugabe, therefore, urged Zimbabweans and the ruling Zanu-PF supporters to unite against foreign enemies he said wanted to destroy the southern African nation.
However, while addressing his first open meeting with war veterans since fighting ended with Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the president apologized for not meeting with them for that long but promised to give them required attention.
“The condition of the war veterans is a priority and I leave you with my promise,” he said, vowing to allocate money to pay for hospital bills and children’s school fees.
The Thursday meeting had been referred to by the media as an occasion that will finally split up the ruling Zanu-PF, especially after Mugabe said last month that the veterans had indicated they wanted him to retire.
But the meeting turned out successful with the veterans pledging support and loyalty to the president. They also presented a list of grievances and demands for top positions in government and state-owned firms, diplomatic posts and at least a fifth of all farmland and mining concessions.
“We played a role in the liberation of our country,” Menias Chimbaira, 62, told AFP.
“We need to remind the younger generations, especially the young politicians, to accord us our rightful place.”
The veterans who numbered 30 000 in total, also requested for an increase in their monthly allowances from $260. But Mugabe said the government would only meet such demands if it had the resources. He said Zimbabwe’s bad record with debtors was holding back potential funding from China, Japan, and India.
“We have a disease in Zimbabwe where we just want to receive and forget that debts are supposed to be repaid. It’s a very bad culture,” said Mugabe.
The health condition of Mugabe has been a matter of particular interest to Zimbabweans since he fell down a staircase after addressing supporters in 2015. On different occasions, there have been rumours that he died as a result of ill health but the aged president has proven to be a cat with nine lives.
One of such rumours was circulated in September 2016 by an online news site which claimed that he had died mid-air on his trip to Dubai. However, the Zimbabwean president on his return from Dubai poked fun at the rumours saying: “Yes, I was dead, it’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do. Once I get back to my country I am real”. He told journalists at Harare international airport that he only travelled to the Arab country on a family issue concerning one of his children.
Despite the many reports about his supposed frail health, the veteran politician has denied them all, describing himself as being as “fit as a fiddle”, and vowing to stand for reelection in 2018.