HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has revealed that he now feels lonely both at home and in government as he is now surrounded by “small people” he cannot relate with on an equal footing because of age difference.
Mugabe (89) said the only person who came closer to him on maturity and age was the Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and described other Cabinet members like Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu and Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa as “kids”.
Mutasa, born in 1935, is 11 years Mugabe’s junior, while Shamu and Chamisa are 67 and 33 years old, respectively. At 89, Mugabe stands as one of the oldest leaders in the country and the longest-serving statesmen on the continent after being in power for the past 33 years.
“. . . They are gone (his age-mates) and those who remain, you look down upon them because they are young. They have not had the same experience, the same length of life and, therefore, the same advantage of gathering as much knowledge and experience as yourself. And so you can’t discuss with them things that happened in the 1930s or even 1950s. They will not know. There is that limitation,” Mugabe said in an interview with ZBC to mark his 89th birthday.
“You take my Cabinet as it is, there is no one I can talk to about how we used to approach girls or we would go to this and that place, riding bicycles. There is no one. There are others like Mutasa. He comes close, but others are just children, the likes of Shamu, Chamisa. You feel that loneliness. You have lost others and sometimes you think of it and it makes you very lonely.”
Mugabe said that there was no one even in the family who could give proper advice as most rely on him as the elder.
“The consoling part of it is that, well fine, there are young ones and young minds you can talk to. You can also try to educate, you can also try to relate a bit of history to and so on and so forth. But they remain young ones who listen much more than they share ideas with you,” Mugabe said.
Africa’s oldest leader and the world’s second oldest after Shimon Peres of Israel, Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980. Yet the world stage is studded with contemporaries who prefer to hold on to the reins.
These rulers include Israeli President Peres (89), Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, aged 86, and King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand (85). Last month, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands cited her 75th birthday as a reason to step down, saying “our country should be in the hands of a new generation”.
Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s most respected statesmen, retired as president at the age of 81 in 1999 and from public life four years later as his health declined.
Mugabe has lost several close colleagues in the party including Vice-Presidents Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Joseph Msika and lately John Landa Nkomo.
He has lost several ministers and party cadres, while in his family most of his siblings have died. His other surviving sister Bridgette has been in a coma at a local hospital since 2010 after collapsing during the burial of her elder sister Sabina.
Regionally, Mugabe has lost several counterparts, while others have retired from active party politics. NewsDay