PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe missed a step and fell off a podium moments after arriving from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday afternoon, sending his security team and Cabinet ministers into panic.
Mugabe, who arrived after midday to a rapturous welcome by hundreds of party supporters and the entire Zanu PF leadership, was walking down the stairs off the podium to greet service chiefs and other government ministers when he missed a step and fell to the ground.
The African Union (AU) chairman, who turns 91 on February 21, was aided up by some ministers and service chiefs, but appeared unhurt and returned to greet the senior securocrats and government officials before he boarded his official vehicle and left.
Mugabe is usually assisted by First Lady Grace Mugabe who, in most cases, holds his hand to climb up or down the stairs.
But yesterday, he was exposed as Grace is recovering from an operation she underwent in the Far East while on holiday.
The fall shocked many and sent security details into panic.
Photojournalists were forced to delete pictures of the Zanu PF strongman on the ground.
Members of the security team quickly jumped in front to shield the president from the eyes of supporters and journalists, while others ran around looking for those who had taken pictures to delete them.
The Zanu PF strongman, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, has over the last few years made several trips to Asia for routine medical check-ups and eye operations.
Before the fall, Mugabe had told the gathering of how he confronted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta over attending the International Criminal Court trial at The Hague, saying it was a betrayal of his father’s principles.
“We said we don’t want to hear that,” he said.
“If you have a case, it must be heard in Africa.
“I was talking to Kenyatta’s son and said why did you go there?
“I warned him not to do that again, ‘you embarrass your (late) father’.”
Mugabe said Zimbabwe’s AU victory was for all political parties in the country, including the MDC formations as it put Zimbabwe on the map.
The president attacked former party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa for his continued statements challenging the legitimacy of Zanu PF’s December 2014 congress.
“Within our party, there were fools who emerged and others just talk, it’s normal to have such people in a country,” he said in apparent reference to Mutasa.
He said there was no mention of Mutasa in Ethiopia despite him writing letters to the AU and Sadc wanting his concerns to be discussed at regional and continental level.
“We didn’t hear anything about him,” Mugabe said.
“It’s just rubbish.
“Lack of understanding that if it gets to this, what do I do.
“If you lose, you work hard so that tomorrow you win not to say why did l lose, you lost because of your deeds.”
Mugabe had earlier pleaded with journalists to report on development and appreciate when good things happened instead of focusing on the negative.
“Journalists should not just focus on negative stories only or to look for things that are not there,” he said.
“We want the truth so that we teach our people on the truth.
“We appeal to journalists who have vision of the future and our policies in all countries — that’s what we want.
“They should also focus on the progress.”