PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s latest trip to Asia has stirred fresh controversy after he was recorded apparently dozing in front of cameras during a Press briefing with his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the video going viral on the Internet and social media.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Mugabe was in Japan at the invitation of Abe, who is seeking to deepen the two countries’ trade relations, and yesterday, the Zimbabwean leader left that country, again for Singapore.
The 92-year-old leader was caught on camera and somewhat appeared like snoozing, as he stood by the podium.
In the video, Mugabe walks slowly and unsteadily to the podium and then appears to snooze, while Abe delivers a statement to the Press.
It is not clear whether Mugabe also made a statement, as the video cuts at the end of Abe’s speech before the two leaders shake hands.
A close-up shot clearly shows Mugabe’s eyes shut, while his head drops in a way that is characteristic of a dozing-off person.
The main opposition MDC-T yesterday said the video showing the dozing Mugabe was an embarrassment to both his legacy and the people of Zimbabwe.
“He is now a national security threat as our image as a country and its people are under threat because of his frailness,” party spokesman Obert Gutu said.
“Surely, someone should knock sense into Mugabe so he appreciates he is no longer a young man, but old and his place is in old people’s homes.
“This is total embarrassment to the country that we have a President who sleeps at important gatherings and in front of the world. Mugabe should respect his people and accept that nature has caught up with him, he must just retire and rest.”
Gutu said it was unfortunate that with the country’s economy in the doldrums, Mugabe could afford the luxury of dozing in front of world cameras.
“It astonishes that when we all expect the country’s leadership to be awake, its leader finds pleasure in sleeping, instead of paying attention and negotiating for better investments with one of the world’s biggest economies. He did not go there at his expense, but using public funds. It’s really sad,” Gutu said.
This is not the first time Mugabe has been caught sleeping in public and, according to those who have worked with him, he routinely sleeps in Cabinet meetings. Mugabe’s deputy for a decade, Joice Mujuru, recently revealed that the Zanu PF leader used to take naps while chairing Cabinet meetings, leaving her to take control.
Despite his advanced age and ill-health, Mugabe has refused to step down, claiming Zimbabweans still wanted him to lead the country.
He told Japanese journalists early this week that he was willing to stand as the Zanu PF presidential candidate in 2018, when he will be 94.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said the video of a snoozing Mugabe was an indictment on the people of Zimbabwe.
“This is a shame. It’s a crisis, which we, as a country, (we) should be embarrassed about,” he said.
“We need to examine our decisions and see if we have a future with this kind of leadership. It’s really sad. Mugabe is not only a threat to himself and those around him; he is a threat to the future of Zimbabwe and its people.
“His continued stay in power and embarrassing acts confirm that with him as a leader, Zimbabwe is doomed.”
Kurauone Chihwayi, the MDC spokesperson, said it was high time Mugabe retired.
“Sleeping on foreign soil while on duty confirms he is too old and too tired to resuscitate the Zimbabwean economy,” Chihwayi said. “We must be ashamed of him for the sake of generations to come. He is unfit to be the leader of this great country. Constitutionally, it shows he has failed to protect the image of the republic as required of him by the law.”
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he could not comment on the video or an incident he had neither viewed nor confirmed its authenticity. “I have no comment to make. I did not see the video or what you are alleging. So I can’t speak on rumours or hearsay,” he said.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza described the incident as shameful and confirmation that the country’s social and political woes were a result of such inept leadership.
“It all confirms why we have unending economic and social challenges as a country. We have leaders who sleep on national duty. It’s really sad and embarrassing,” he said.
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