Mugabe ‘Massage Chair’ Fuels Fresh Failing Health Rumours

Dar es Salaam. In November 2015, the wife of long-serving Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Grace, declared that her now 93-year-old husband would rule the country from a wheelchair till he was 100 because of his “unaparalled wisdom”. Her words may have been fulfilled a few days ago.

President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwean ministers reportedly pooled resources to buy the nonagenarian a special belated birthday present – a massage and exercise chair, they claim. But critics say it’s actually a wheelchair.

According to Newsday, a Zimbabwean daily, the chair was presented to Mr Mugabe at a private function held recently at the State House in Harare, before the report went viral amid speculation that he was now wheelchair-bound.

The international media of late has been awash with pictures and videos of the Zimbabwean President struggling to walk with some analysts suggesting he could do with a walking stick.

His health has continued to be a topical issue both in international and domestic politics as many wonder, when he would retire, considering his ripe old age of 93.

Defiantly, Mr Mugabe insists he will only quit office, when his party and people ask him to do so – not as a result of international pressure. President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 and is one of Africa’s longest serving heads of state.

Yesterday, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was quoted in the local daily papers as saying the presidential gift for Mr Mugabe was yet another confirmation that he was no longer fit to rule.

“It confirms the physical infirmity of the President. He is now unable to walk properly and this confirms that. The right thing for him to do is to step down and let mentally and physically fitter people run the country,” Mr Douglas Mwonzora, secretary-general of the main Morgan Tsvangirai-led opposition MDC to Newsday.

Another opposition official, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Jacob Mafume was quoted as saying: “They need to finish the job and donate an old people’s home, where he could finish the rest of his life driving up and down its corridors with his new vehicle.” The Zimbabwean government has denied that the gift is a wheelchair. A minister in Mr Mugabe’s cabinet said they had bought their leader a massage and exercise chair.

State-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) reportedly first described the gift as a “special mobile chair” before later changing this to reflect that it was a “massage chair”.

On social media, the chair has provided fodder for mockery. There has been frenzied debate about the meaning and symbolism considering Mr Mugabe’s advanced age, and repeated reports of his frequent travels to Singapore for medical checkups.

Dr Blessingmiles Kwibi-Gavhure, a lecturer at Cape Peninsula University in South Africa, wrote on facebook: “You know you have reached the zenith of spin when a wheelchair mutates into a mobile chair, massage chair, excetra, in a matter of minutes. A wheelchair is a wheel chair by any other name!!!!”

A Twitter group named BuildZimbabweUK wrote Monday: “Grace said Mugabe would rule from a wheel chair and then from the grave. Step 1 complete…we’ve seen nothing yet.”

Another Twitter user, Cosmo (@Nkosinathi_7), postulated “Mugabe will campaign for 2018 elections in a wheel chair.”

A number of public mishaps in recent years, including the widely-reported tumble at Harare International Airport in February 2015 have fuelled speculation over President Mugabe’s health.

The Zimbabwean president has, offensively, had to endure sickening jokes and false reports about his alleged death — prompting him to put down these sadists by saying that he had “died” many times more than Jesus Christ.

“I have died many times. That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I am as fit as a fiddle.”