Earlier February this year, #Mugabefalls was the hashtag that went viral on the social media. A lot of youths from across Africa, and every online news media from the West talked and laughed about it. We saw memes of the fall from every young man on facebook and twitter, as well as whatsapp profile pictures. What followed were reports that lots of his bodyguards had been suspended, cameras of journalists confiscated and newsmen ordered not to report on the matters.
The talk about Mugabe’s fall would immediately be followed by a reminder of his age. The 90 year old African dictator had tumbled on a red carpet due to old age was the conclusion we had to extract. But he is a president; every little thing he does or happens to him can never go unnoticed he should know.
Some years back, a monkey peed on then Zambian president Rupiah Banda in the comfort of state house gardens, and we heard and read it too. It never went as viral as the Mugabe fall though. Perhaps it’s the character in the story that matters, but journalists choose what to feed the news-craving public.
Besides, Mugabe has turned into one famous Pan African leader through years of his Zimbabwe land reform program that has earned him the tyrant’s mark to minority white farmers and largely a hero to the majority landless black peasants. The course is noble to Africans who look up to Mugabe as some anti-imperialist, though it has turned him into an enemy of the opposition home, human rights organizations home, abroad and the West in general. This is what has seen him destroyed from abroad and within.
Mugabe has fallen lots of times before; he said it later, speaking to the media home. He promised never to stop. He wondered how that could make news. The man is out of mind: he is a president and wherever he goes there are cameras around him. Those cameras are not for nothing. There is the government press that follows him everywhere, why does he take them in the first place?
Sanctions brought Zimbabwe to its knees, down from the bread basket it used to be some years back. Therefore, the fall in early February was not a strange phenomenon to the revolutionary. The economy crumbled way back, and Zimbabwe uses the US dollar. There was a cholera outbreak once that wiped out thousands. All that passed and he stood tall again.
Weeks after Mugabe’s fall, the African young man witnessed another famous tumble. This time it was no politician, no African, or briefly, no tyrant. Still, it was some famous world figure in the entertainment industry. Madonna had fallen on stage during a Brit Awards performance on 25th February, 2015: same month Mugabe tumbled to the floor a few weeks earlier.
Now, Mugabe and Madonna, to who would the African youth pay more attention? Madonna has been to Malawi lots of times before, including late last year when she wined and dined with Limbani Kalirani popularly known as Tay Grin. She came into the limelight when she separately adopted two orphans from the country, David and Mercy. Since then, she has been made good will ambassador by the president, and every little move of her goes noticed by people who don’t even listen to her music.
But her fall was a little understandable. She was on stage, performing. A back-up dancer attempted to detach the cape she was wearing as part of the performance of her song “Living for Love”. That was it, she tumbled a little. She is 56, energetic and no stranger to stage performance. What reporters did was to find a reason for the fall, and never talked about the reaction from the audience, or herself, or the cameramen. At least the cameramen acted responsibly, they quickly released videos of her fall.
I doubt if a lot of social network users got this news, or they must have found it not worthy sharing. It was strangely quite that day on facebook and twitter, save for the media that specialize in entertainment out there. Let’s not talk about memes of a performer tumbling; it’s hard to set up a stage and feign falling.
However, times have taught Mugabe the best of survival tactics. When he tumbles, he quickly rushes for the hand of any man next to him and there again, strong, he stands. There was China when he was about to go down, he quickly grabbed its hand and rose on his feet again. Now, he is the African Union Chairman, another thing that sent sparks as armed chair critics wondered what new thing the old guard would offer that hasn’t been offered before at the AU.
The worrying part is, Mugabe lives to his word. He promised his people that they would get their land should they attain independence. The colonial government agreed then, and it was to be done in phases. He came to power, promises were not honoured until Mugabe did it his own way in the early 2000s and got the people their land back. In Zimbabwe’s previous elections, he promised never to lose. The opposition suggested this meant he would rig the polls because he wasn’t popular, to which he calmly responded that if winning an election with an outright majority directly translated into rigging, “then let it be.” More worrying now is the fact that he has said it several times that only death will take him down.