HARARE – The beleaguered Zimbabwean strongman today tried to put up a brave-face on the back of mounting health complications after falling on the stairs on Wednesday by turning up at the cabinet meeting with State photographers available for a stage-managed event.
The 90-year-old fell down a staircase on Wednesday as he walked off a podium after addressing supporters at Harare International Airport.
In a statement, the Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said the President arrived at his offices walking with no aide and told him that he was fine, dismissing the incident as a mere slip.
“The President’s ability to report for work without any difficulties is in direct contrast with the misrepresentation in private and western-sponsored media who had a field day in trying to portray the trip as a huge fall which they also tried to associate with his age when in actual fact it was a mere trip that was caused by a poorly laid out carpet,” Charamba said.
On Thursday State media tried to put a brave stand for the ageing tyrant making claims he “his spitley self when he returned for work” – but those who witnessed his arrival said the Mugabe was walking gingerly and he stumbled as he aproached the door.
He had just returned from Ethiopia where he took over the rotating chairmanship of the African Union.
Africa’s oldest leader, who turns 91 later this month, had concluded his homecoming speech when he tumbled to his knees on a short flight of stairs in an incident witnessed by journalists and hundreds of supporters.
He was quickly helped up by aides and walked to a waiting car.
Mugabe took over the post of African Union chair on Friday, replacing Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
The former liberation war hero is Africa’s third-longest serving leader.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba refused to comment saying the incident had nothing to do with the media.
“Zvinei nemi izvozvo (what has that got to do with you)?” he said
Minutes after the story was picked by international media, Zanu PF’s communication department was also on twitter defending the party leader.
“Please don’t allow rumours and lies. President Robert Gabriel Mugabe did not fall, he was doing a bounce (like the kids do),” the department said.
Zanu PF deputy director of information Psychology Maziwisa also wrote that his boss was fit as usual.
“President Robert Mugabe returned home this afternoon, looking as youthful as ever,” said Maziwisa.
But MDC Renewal spokesperson Jacob Mafume said there were many things falling apart in the country because of Mugabe.
“Whilst he might not be the first person to fall, we have maintained that state house is not an old people’s home,” he said.
Meanwhile, reporters who had taken pictures of the 90 year-old falling incident were rounded up by Mugabe’s security details and forced to delete the images.
About 10 photo-journalists said they were forced to delete pictures of the incident by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Journalists said they had no option but to delete the images as they feared for their lives.
“There is no story worth dying for,” said one reporter.
“We were instructed in no uncertain terms to delete all the pictures. As I attempted to dodge the security people I was followed by a CIO operative who demanded that I delete all the pictures.”
Another journalist who claimed to have the pictures said, “we were told if anyone published the pictures he/she will be in trouble.’’