President Robert Mugabe showed both his advanced age and human side when he told thousands of Zanu PF supporters who gathered in Matobo at the weekend for his 93rd birthday celebrations how the deaths of his parents and siblings had left him feeling very lonely.
While most thankful to his creator for his long life, Mugabe went down memory lane, revealing how over the years death had robbed him of members of his family, including his sisters.
“I thank the Almighty God that I was able to live from 92 last year to 93 this year.
“That’s a long journey. It’s a long journey to have walked, a journey with its own joys, displeasures, its own sorrows.
“The joys are those when mother, father and you are still together, your brothers and sisters are still together with you. And the sorrows are those that arise through missing these. I have missed them.
“I have just one sister left by my father’s second wife, Regina. When I look back I say Oh Lord, why were these taken before me and why have I lived so long alone and alive,” an emotional Mugabe told his supporters
The nonagenarian is the only leader Zimbabweans have ever known since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1980. He is also the oldest leader in the world.
He is facing increased pressure from both within Zanu PF and outside to bring to an end his long but tumultuous rule, by paving the way for a successor.
In Matobo, Mugabe also appeared to hint that he was beginning to feel the strain of his job, as well as the trials and tribulations of poor health and advanced age.
“It’s not always predictable that if you are alive this year that you will be alive next year and the year after next. It doesn’t matter how healthy you might feel, the decision that you continue to leap and to enjoy life is that of the one personality we all call the Almighty God.
“And so, on this occasion, we should thank the Almighty God. I cannot answer that … but I think sometimes I hear a silent voice saying, ‘All of you, each man, each woman has a mission to fulfil in this world’.
“You have a mandate. That mandate might run a short time. Other mandates run longer times. But your own mandate, your own mission … I have been allowed to run for as long as you are still alive.
“You must discover what it is, and I cannot discover it more than saying I am one amongst many and not just one amongst many, but one who has been made by the many their leader,” the tired-looking Mugabe said.
Mugabe celebrated his birthday at a time that Zanu PF is being devoured by its ugly tribal, factional and succession wars, which have worsened over the past few weeks.
His warring party is split between two bitterly opposed groups — Team Lacoste, which is rallying behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations, and the Generation 40 camp which is rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather succeeding him.