Mugabe’s Health Challenged in Court by Zimbabwe Opposition

  • Opposition says Mugabe read wrong speech, stumbled down stairs
  • 91-year-old leader has ruled nation since 1980 independence

A Zimbabwean opposition supporter has asked the constitutional court to rule on whether parliament should investigate President Robert Mugabe’s mental and physical fitness to do his job.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, who describes himself as a long-time member of the Movement for Democratic Change and qualified lawyer, presented an affidavit to the court in Harare on Friday. In the document, he outlined a series of blunders and media speculation that have raised questions about Mugabe’s ability to govern the southern African nation.

“Having a president that may lack capacity to carry out the job threatens democracy, undermines the constitution and all the rights therein and puts in jeopardy the very foundation, security and future of the nation,” Chinyoka said in the statement.

Robert Mugabe during the opening of parliament in September
Robert Mugabe during the opening of parliament in September
Photographer: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

He cited as examples the 91-year-old leader reading out the wrong speech at the opening of parliament in September, repeating the state-of-the-nation address he delivered a few weeks earlier, as well as photos from last year that showed Mugabe descending stairs from a podium when he mis-stepped and fell.

Mugabe’s medical trips abroad, for what his office describes as check-ups, have also fueled speculation about his well-being and who may succeed him. The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party is divided into camps, with supporters jockeying for his wife Grace Mugabe, who says she could be chosen, or Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

No one answered the phone at the attorney-general’s office in Harare when Bloomberg News called outside regular hours for comment.

Land Seizures

Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980 and has a mandate until 2018 elections, has given no clear indication he plans to leave anytime soon. Critics say his rule has been marked by vote-rigging, intimidation tactics and economic mismanagement, particularly an often violent program that began in 2000 to seize white-owned land and give it to black Zimbabwean farmers.

Zimbabwe is working to revive an economy that has been hobbled by low industrial output and lack of financing, central bank Governor John Mangudya said on Thursday. The government plans to catch up on overdue payments by June to obtain financial support from the European Union, Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

An investigation into Mugabe’s competency to lead the nation would be tainted by the fact that the people mandated by the constitution to do it -- the House speaker and president of the Senate -- are members of Zanu-PF, Chinyoka said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE