ZIMBABWE president Robert Mugabe has become a laughing stock in his country after reports that his cabinet members gave him a motorised wheelchair for his 93rd birthday.
Mugabe – in power for nearly 40 years – was presented with the gift at a private ceremony which went viral within minutes.Social media users and opposition politicians were first to ridicule the veteran politician for “ruling from a wheelchair”, and local media has now picked up the story.
Opposition politician Elias Mudzuri told a rally: “We are not going to allow Mugabe to get older and continue to rule us from a wheelchair.”
“It’s true that I coordinated the event as a minister and presented the president with the gifts at State House”
Public Service Minister Priscah Mupfumira
The fact that the chair is claimed to be a motorised massage therapy chair has done little to dent the image of a wizened Mugabe being wheeled around as he rules the country.
Cartoons and social media reports show the Zimbabwean leader in the capital Harare issuing orders from his motorised throne.
His own cabinet ministers at first seemed to support reports that they had presented him with a “special massage wheelchair.”
But Public Service Minister Priscah Mupfumira later said: “It’s true that I coordinated the event as a minister and presented the president with the gifts at State House.”However, I have to clarify that we gave him a massaging and exercise chair. It’s nothing special.”But the President’s wife and Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe has been blamed for encouraging the ridicule with her 2015 claim that her husband would one day rule from a wheelchair – and then after his death.
She told a rally: “We are going to create a special wheelchair for President Mugabe until he rules to 100 years, because that’s what we want.”Critics said it confirmed that old age had taken its toll on the Zanu-PF leader who turned 93 in February.One social media user – named as ‘BuildZimbabweUK’ – said: “Grace said Mugabe would rule from a wheelchair and then from the grave. Step 1 complete… we’ve seen nothing yet.”Another – identified as ‘Dr.Pedzisai Ruhanya’ – added: “Ruling from the Wheel Chair as said in 2015 by First Lady Grace Mugabe. Now the Wheel Chair has been given to Pres Mugabe!”