ROBERT Mugabe – a subject of over a dozen death rumours over the last decade – joked recently that he had outdone Christ.
"I have died many times - that's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once,” the 88-year-old Zimbabwe president told reporters, themselves the prime sources of most of the speculation.
The rumours swept the world media again this week after Mugabe’s latest sojourn to Asia.
Mugabe’s aides and his Zanu PF party insisted on Tuesday that he is in good health and would arrive on Wednesday from his final stop in Hong Kong.
On cue, a posse of photographers, local and international journalists camped at the Harare International Airport – starting at day break – but Mugabe appeared happy to play the waiting game, borrowing a page from Jesus who said about his own second coming: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
A senior Zanu PF official told New Zimbabwe.com late Wednesday that Mugabe – travelling on a chartered Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 – would be in Harare by 6AM on Thursday and will chair a re-arranged Cabinet meeting which should start shortly after 9AM.
“I don’t understand what the fuss is about his arrival time,” the official said. “The President will be here tonight, and tonight is 6PM to 6AM. I have no reason to believe that he won’t arrive within that time. As far as I am concerned cabinet is on tomorrow and the President will of course attend and chair it.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Information Minister Webster Shamu summoned newspaper editors to his office to demand a cessation to speculative stories about Mugabe’s health.
The Zimbabwe Independent editor Dumisani Muleya said: “We told the minister that if there wasn’t so much cloak and dagger around the President’s foreign trips then there wouldn’t be so much speculation.
“The Presidency must establish a relationship with the media as happens in progressive countries the world over.”