Mugabe ‘too sick’ to cap NUST graduates
By Lance Guma
Speculation on the health of Robert Mugabe continued to grow after the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo on Thursday made last minute changes to the graduation ceremony he was presiding over.
NUST students who spoke to SW Radio Africa said it has always been a tradition that Mugabe, as chancellor of all state universities, caps them individually. But on Thursday the ZANU PF leader, who arrived an hour late, was clearly not up to the physical demands required to do that. Instead he capped the students in blocks according to their departments.
There was however to be some face-saving as the 87 year old managed to individually cap those who graduated with Masters Degrees and others who came out with distinctions in their chosen programmes. This meant capping approximately 100 to 150 students instead of about 1,000.
A student who spoke to SW Radio Africa on condition of anonymity said they were initially given name tags to give to the dean of each faculty and these tags were to be presented to Mugabe, one by one. “This entire programme was changed at the last minute and he capped us in a block,” the student said.
Although Mugabe does a similar block capping at the University of Zimbabwe, where the student population is much larger, he has always capped students at NUST individually, SW Radio Africa was told. One student told us “Mugabe looked old and tired and the feeling amongst many of us was that he needed to rest.”
NUST had its 17th graduation ceremony on Thursday and for the first time used the recently completed Ceremonial Hall. Among those who attended included Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge, his deputy Lutho Tapela and Bulawayo East MDC-T MP Thabitha Khumalo.
Only last week a visibly shaking Mugabe was helped to walk the stairs up to the podium at the Chinhoyi University of Technology graduation ceremony. He also shied away from making any long speeches and instead conferred degrees while seated. Even the ceremony itself was delayed by 2 weeks as he sought treatment in the Far East.
Mugabe has been to the Far East 8 times this year alone while seeking medical treatment. It is widely speculated he is receiving serious treatment related to his battle with prostate cancer. Recently leaked US diplomatic cables quote Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono as telling former US Ambassador James McGee in 2008 that the disease would kill Mugabe within five years.
In a report of the June 2008 meeting released by WikiLeaks, McGee wrote: “Gideon Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), told the Ambassador on June 4 that President Robert Mugabe has prostate cancer that has metastasised and, according to doctors, will cause his death in three to five years.
According to Gono, Mugabe’s doctor had recommended he cut back on his activities. The time frame given by doctors also suggested that Mugabe will not live beyond 2013. The cable also quoted Gono saying “Mugabe’s wife had confided to him that the President was ‘out of it’ about 75 percent of the time and she wanted him to step down.” SW Radio Africa