ZIMBABWE’S 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe should step aside without delay and allow new leadership of a country whose political and economic implosion since 2000 is dragging down the whole of southern Africa, Botswana President Ian Khama, according to a Reuters report Wednesday.
Despite his reputation as one of Africa’s most outspoken figures, Khama’s remarks are certain to raise hackles in Harare, where factions of Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party are locked in a bitter struggle to succeed the only leader Zimbabwe has know, the news agency noted.
Asked if Mugabe, who came to power after independence from Britain in 1980, should accept the reality of his advancing years and retire, 63-year-old Khama responded: “Without doubt. He should have done it years ago.
Mugabe, in power for 35 years and, at 92, the oldest executive president in the world, is in trouble admist recent civil servants strike over the government’s failure to pay salaries, reported divisions in a hitherto staunchly loyal military, rising protests over harsh economic conditions, and sharpening factionalism within his ruling ZANU-PF.
Mugabe’s administration has faced a worsening cash shortage in recent months. Since abandoning its own currency in 2009 to end hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has used mainly US dollars, as well as rands, euros, and British pounds.
Despite the crisis, the wily veteran has indicated he is not about to throw in the towel.
He has already told the Zanu-PF central committee, that he would launch his campaign for the 2018 presidential election very soon.
Mugabe is the fourth longest-serving African ruler, and older than the continent’s two youngest leaders, Swaziland’s King Mswati, 47, and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila, 44, combined.
If he were to make it into the 2018 election, he would have totally shattered the record books. But that would only be one of the many things that make Mugabe both a figure of unending scorn, but also admiration.
Here are 12 things you may not have known about Mugabe:
• Mugabe was recently portrayed in the highly acclaimed Netflix original political TV drama “House of Cards” through a fictional character called “President Chimbetu”. This fictional portrayal aired in the 7th episode of the show’s 3rd season. The episode made mention of Mugabe’s then-current role as chair of the African Union and “President Chimbetu’s” poor human rights record as well graft and corruption in his government.
• China, Namibia and Malawi all have national roads officially named after President Robert Mugabe. “Mugabe Avenue” is in the Chinese province of Anhui.
• Despite the frosty relationship between Zimbabwe and Britain, Mugabe holds the British in very high esteem. In her book, “Dinner with Mugabe,” Heidi Holland recorded that she saw tears in Mugabe’s eyes when he recalled Queen Elizabeth’s sate visit to Zimbabwe in 1991. He would also later tell his children that, “The British Empire was once the greatest kingdom in the world – and the way they did things was the civilised way.” For years, Mugabe has often been seen dressed in elegant Saville Row suits.
• In 1994 Mugabe was awarded with an honorary knighthood title by Queen Elizabeth II. However he was later stripped of this title in 2011, at the recommendation of then British Foreign Secretary, David Milliband as a “mark of revulsion against the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided over.”
• During his long rein Mugabe has had 7 Vice Presidents. Of these, 4 Vice Presidents have died in office. Only one V.P, Joice Teurairopa Mujuru was fired from office by President Mugabe in 2015 after she was accused of trying to unseat him.
• It certainly does not match Nelson Mandela’s 27 year incarceration, but Mugabe spent a decade in prison. He was imprisoned by Rhodesia’s colonial government between 1964 and 1974. Whilst in prison, Mugabe taught English to fellow inmates and also earned multiple degrees while studying via correspondence. During his time in prison, his oldest son, Michael Nhamodzenyika Mugabe died of malaria at age 3 in Ghana.
• Mugabe has never lost power, but he has tasted defeat in a Presidential election once in 2008. He lost the first round of Zimbabwe’s highly disputed 2008 general elections in which the opposition parties alleged rigging, after election results took over a month to be announced. In those elections, he garnered 43.2% of the votes compared to rival Morgan Tsvangirai’s 47.9%. These results necessitated a run-off which he eventually “won”. Its those events that ultimately led to the formation of a coalition government with his two main rivals in 2009.
• Mugabe is Africa’s most educated president, although it might not always seem so from his utterances and actions. He holds 7 university degrees, 6 of which were earned by distance learning while in prison.
• In 1981 shortly after Zimbabwe became independent from the Rhodesian colonial government, Mugabe was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize because, confounding as it might seem today, at that time he openly stood against retribution and violence against Zimbabwe’s former colonialists.
• Mugabe is quite the sports fan, dividing his attention between cricket, soccer and tennis. He is the patron of Zimbabwe Cricket. He is also a self confessed Chelsea and Barcelona fan and was also once described as a “keen and good” tennis player by a former teacher at the Catholic mission school he attended.
• A devout Catholic and educated at a Jesuit mission school in then Rhodesia, Mugabe frequently attends important Catholic events at The Vatican, where he partakes of Holy Communion.