Didn’t retire. Didn’t name a successor. Didn’t cut down on his foreign travel despite Zimbabwe’s crippling cash crisis.
If we’re talking about President Robert Mugabe, 2016 looks much more like a list of what the ageing Zimbabwe strongman DIDN’T do in a sometimes tumultuous 12-month period than what he did do.
But for those with a keen interest on what’s happening across the Limpopo, here is a list of 10 things Mugabe made the news for.
(He didn’t do the one thing everybody’s waiting for him to do – but we’re not supposed to say that.)
Celebrated his 92nd birthday
When you reach this grand old age, every birthday is worth marking. The Zimbabwe president always does it in style – and this year was no different. The $1m or thereabouts party was held in drought-hit Masvingo in late February. In keeping with the Great Zimbabwe theme, Mugabe was presented with a Great Zimbabwe cake. That pic of a woman supposedly picking up cake crumbs from the red carpet left a sour taste.
Went MIA in Singapore
Why did Mugabe decide to make the lengthy trip to an obscure culture festival in India in March? That was the official reason given for yet another presidential overseas trip – but Mugabe never actually got to India. Thanks to the wonders of flight tracker apps, Mugabe’s plane was traced to Singapore where he’d likely gone for medical attention. It would not be the last time: the Zimbabwe Independent says he’s been to Singapore 10 times this year.
Posed with his first grandchild
The moment Mugabe had been waiting for: daughter Bona and son-in-law Simba Chikore finally presented him with baby Simbanashe in April.
Just one thing (well, a couple of things actually): Bona was in hospital out of Zimbabwe in Dubai or Singapore, following in her father’s footsteps. That angered more than a few Zimbabweans: most of the population is forced to rely on the southern African country’s less-than-top-class health system where high prices (a pint of blood will cost you more than $100) often do not mean high standards.
The other thing? Baby Simbanashe’s dad was named head of the struggling Air Zimbabwe national carrier in October, leading to allegations of nepotism. Approved bond notes
OK, so it was the central bank governor who announced the coming of this “surrogate currency” back in May but that was almost certainly with Mugabe’s approval. After all, Mugabe insists that civil servants must be paid their annual bonuses even when there’s no forex to pay them. A possible previously-tried option? Print cash. Picture: Via Social media
Went MIA again
This time it was in Dubai in September. Rumour was that he’d dashed off either for urgent medical attention or to sort out a delicate family issue (his gregarious and party-keen son Robert Junior is based there.)
Had a statue made of him
Hang on, did the artist really mean Mugabe’s face to be THAT pinched? Dominic Benhura is one of Zimbabwe’s most successful sculptors – but that creation unveiled at State House in September nearly landed him in hot soup. Happily Mugabe pronounced it “wonderful”.
Hosted Jacob Zuma
At the inugural meeting of the Bi-National Commission in Harare in November. And this time around , it was JZ who was having – ahem – domestic troubles (#StateCapture. ‘Nuff said.) “We’re happy you’re still in one piece,” Mugabe told him. This was actually the second time Zuma travelled to Harare this year on official business: the first trip was in April, when he attended a SADC summit.
Walked painfully in Morocco
Sadly, because of last year’s #MugabeFalls memes, Mugabe’s every step in public is now scrutinised. The state broadcaster loyally turns its cameras away from the president when he walks to or away from a podium in Zimbabwe. Outside Zimbabwe the powers-that-be have less power over lens focus. This was a short clip filmed as Mugabe walked to greet King Mohammed VI of Morocco and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the COP22 climate change summit in Marrakech. He didn’t stumble: he was walking too slowly for that.
Got confirmed as Zanu-PF’s candidate for 2018
No surprises here. This happened at the Zanu-PF party conference in Masvingo in mid-December. The elections will be held in the middle of 2018. He’ll be 94, the age his mother reportedly lived to.
Went on his Christmas holiday
.. and will likely end up in Singapore. We’re wondering if his son will leak any more Instagram pics (there was one of Mugabe looking particularly grumpy during a family meal outside the country this time two years ago.) Anyway, you get the picture. Mugabe travelled in 2016. A lot .
Did he do anything else of note? That’s for you to decide.
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