President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet ministers yesterday appeared to authenticate speculative media reports about the 93-year-old leader’s ill-health and frailty when they presented him with a “special massage chair” as a belated birthday present, with critics insisting it was a wheelchair.
The chair was presented to Mugabe at a private function held at State House, before the report went viral amid speculation that he was now wheelchair-bound.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Priscah Mupfumira, who coordinated and organised the event, confirmed the gifts which also included a nine-carat gold watch and a golden pen, but denied reports that they had presented him with a wheelchair.
“It’s true that I co-ordinated 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,” Mupfumira said.
She also declined to disclose the cost of the special chair and its origins.
“It is not important where the presents were bought and for how much. It was the ministers who collectively bought the presents and no ministry was involved in the purchases,” Mupfumira said.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was not immediately available to comment on the specifics of the chair.
The development could be a fulfilment of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s declaration during a Mbare rally in November 2015 that her husband would continue to rule even from a wheelchair because of “his unparalleled wisdom to lead the country”.
Contacted for comment, MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said: “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.”
Opposition PDP spokesman Jacob Mafume said: “It is a timely gift as the whole world can see he is struggling to walk and to keep himself awake. They need to finish the job and donate an old people’s home where he can finish the rest of his life driving up and down its corridors with his new vehicle.”
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The international media of late has been awash with pictures and videos of Mugabe struggling to walk with some analysts suggesting he could do with a walking stick.