THE Hebrew Scriptures tell of a fellow who holds the unproven record of the oldest person ever to live. The man was known as Methuselah and he died at the ripe age of 969.
His death was a few days before the great floods which saw the ark of Noah saving chosen couples within the animal kingdom. The name Methuselah purportedly means “the one whose death shall bring judgment”.
Mugabe seems to be Zimbabwe’s own version of Methuselah!
Likening any old and shrivelled president to Methuselah is not ordinarily a prosecutable offence anywhere in the world except in Zimbabwe. The country boasts of specially crafted statutes that deem such utterances an insolent affront to the good person of the very noble president.
For the purpose of avoiding attracting the wrath of the long arms of the overzealous law enforcement agents, referring to the old president as Methuselah will be minimal.
President Mugabe will only be showered with the phrase “as old as Methuselah” only as a humble term of endearment. This is in recognition of his extraordinary feat which has seen him reach the great age of ninety without any serious health issues except the occasional cataract problem which seems to require the expertise of Singaporean medics.
The president of Zimbabwe, Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces, First Secretary of Zanu PF and Chancellor of all universities in Zimbabwe celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday 21.
Like him or loathe him, the man has been blessed with the gift of Methuselah. His angelic middle name Gabriel adds a biblical touch to this affair that all began on an ominous 21st February day in 1924. A baby destined to rule and to a degree ruin Zimbabwe was born. Unbeknown to the then enslaved people of Zimbabwe, this demigod to some and anathema to others would serve or starve the people of Zimbabwe.
After Mugabe’s ascendance to the throne the date February 21 became significant to the Zanu PF faithful at a scale similar to Christians revering 25th December.
The country as a whole remains spellbound by the way Mugabe seems to defy advanced age to continue executing his duties as the executive president. Singularly, collectively or in partisan fashion, most Zimbabweans sincerely wished him a happy birthday. All civil and servile Zimbabweans who are guided by a need for change naturally wished him many more years on earth as a person and perhaps not a day more as president.
The wish for change pervades strongly within Zanu PF and among the general population of Zimbabwe. Outside the party the expressions are very loud, deliberate, elaborate and intense. Internally, Zanu PF stalwarts with impressive war of liberation credentials are getting impatient with Mugabe’s never ending story at State House.
This frustration with Mugabe’s overstay has resulted in battle lines being drawn between factions. In-fighting and elaborate posturing for the coveted post of president of Zanu PF and possibly president of Zimbabwe are wide spread and the exposé’ on obnoxious salaries bears credence to the dirty battles.
The in-fighting has incensed Mugabe at a time he was supposed to be reflecting positively on his achievements. He could not hide how the relentless manoeuvres within his party nauseated him during that a pre-birthday interview. He reminded the warring factions that he was still around, he was effectively in charge and that there was no vacancy on offer.
His chilling warning was not only meant to stifle any succession debate within his party but also to give the party a new working guideline. Now the party will work on the theory that Mugabe has decided to insult the people of Zimbabwe with the title of “life president”.
Most Zimbabweans would not mind hearing him say “I am still here.” What sends chills to the spines of the people is hearing him declare “I am still here as the president”. This fear applies to his lieutenants within Zanu PF who want to succeed him and to his political opponents outside of Zanu PF who want change.
This alters the whole ball game as it effectively neuters his colleagues at Zanu PF. They will now kowtow to State House to try to reassure Mugabe that they were never part of the whole succession fiasco. They will blame the imperialist intelligence services for fomenting the mischief. They will pledge their allegiance to him and life will return to normal in the party.
The silenced ambitious ones will adorn shirts emblazoned with Mugabe’s portrait and they will shout slogans as if their lives depended on how loud they shouted. By the time Mugabe’s term as life president expires, the ambitious yet silenced ones will awaken to the reality of their political sterility.
They will be so politically weakened that it would be ludicrous for them to aspire for the ultimate office of the land. As the neuters retreat to their political kraal, young Chatunga will perpetuate the hegemony and a Mugabe “will still be here”.
Hopefully the end of the term of the life president will not bring judgement. By the time Mugabe “will not be here” the situation may be ripe for a revolution that will see people being uncivil to each other.
Masola Wadabudabu is social commentator