HARARE – So, last week, Robert Mugabe, “Africa’s oldest leader and the world’s second oldest after Shimon Peres of Israel”, attended the inauguration of “Kenya’s youngest president ever”.
I was honestly embarrassed for Mugabe.
What was an out of touch 89-year-old, who has been in power for more than three decades, doing at the swearing-in ceremony of a 51-year-old whose predecessor had, at 81, seen it fit to pass the baton to “a younger generation of leaders”?
This came a couple of months after Pope Benedict XVI broke with tradition and announced his retirement at 85, saying his body and health no longer allowed him to carry out his duties as expected.
To make matters worse, Mugabe does not mind attending gatherings where many hosts would rather not have him come.
Invited or not, he should consider what his presence does to other people’s functions as he almost always draws negative attention to himself and all those stories we hear of everyday.
In most cases, his presence spoils other people’s functions by drawing attention for all the wrong reasons, including his much-talked about age, length of time spent in the presidency and other unsavoury issues.
No matter how loud and sweet we beat the drums, there comes a time to quit and simply watch from the sidelines.
Mugabe is denying himself the elder statesman status; he is denying the younger leaders the reservoir of knowledge that they would otherwise tap into when unsure about the direction the nation should take.
He is denying us his wisdom.
“I am happy to pass the torch of leadership to the new generation of leaders,” outgoing president Mwai Kibaki said at the inauguration in Mugabe’s presence.
“I wish to state that as I exit the stage of leadership, I have no doubt in my mind that the country is in good hands. Kenyans and the international community should give them space and support to enable them to exercise their Presidential mandate.”
Odinga had some gripes with the way the elections were conducted and went to court. The court reached its decision in favour of Kenyatta.
“The court has now spoken,” Odinga said. “I wish the president-elect and his team well.”
That simple act alone will endear him well with his people in future should he again wish to offer himself for consideration for Kenyan presidency.
I salute the Kenyans for turning a corner and for their ability and willingness to accept what their majority, however slim, had decided upon.
We, in Zimbabwe, are also in the midst of preparing for elections this year.
“Tsvangirai has sabotaged this country. He is an agent of the devil who is bent on confusing our graduates to become subjects of the devil,” said war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
“If we see anyone with an MDC-T party card, that person is a sell-out and they deserve to be added to the unenviable list of the devil’s servants. Down with MDC-T, down with Tsvangirai.”
The man was addressing students, for goodness sake, but no one in his party admonished him.
“God has one leader, who is Mugabe, and one party, Zanu-PF…I hate whites,” said Sibanda to the students.
President Mugabe issued no statement distancing himself from this vitriol.
Is it because he accepts what Sibanda was saying and doing? Is it that he has become irrelevant and out of touch with the nation? This is not the party that was formed in his absence in 1963.
A few weeks ago, Mugabe was quoted as saying that “he now feels lonely both at home and in government as he is now surrounded by ‘small people’ he cannot relate with on an equal footing because of age difference”.
“They are gone (his age-mates) and those who remain, you look down upon them because they are young. They have not had the same experience, the same length of life and, therefore…you can’t discuss with them things that happened in the 1930s or even 1950s. They will not know. There is that limitation.”
Well said, Mr President.
To paraphrase your statements for you, Sir: “It has long been time for you to retire”, please.
Mugabe cannot wish on the youngsters of 2013 how he did things in the 1930s.
I bet he is even expecting young Kenyatta to come and celebrate with him when he wins his elections at age 90. What a disgrace! – Tanonoka Joseph Whande