By Ray Ndlovu
Three days before he celebrates his 95th birthday, a picture of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe started being shared on Twitter on Monday.
In the picture, Mugabe’s hair appears to have grown far whiter than before he left office in late 2017. He is wearing a crisp white shirt with a navy blue jacket and tie.
He is seated on a chair in what is believed to be his lavish mansion in the upmarket Harare suburb of Borrowdale. Standing behind him is an unidentified boy, thought to be a relative of the former leader.
The source of the image was not immediately known.
Mugabe turns 95 on Thursday. His birthday is a public holiday in Zimbabwe, after the Zanu-PF Youth League pushed for the honour in the last months of his rule. Even after his ousting in November 2017 by his long-time protégé Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s birthday has remained a public holiday.
His birthday in 2018 was celebrated without the fanfare usually associated with the day. It had become tradition for government ministries, parastatals and other companies to splash large advertisements in state media with messages of congratulations to Mugabe. The former ruler would also feast on a giant cake during the main celebration, held at a cost of thousands of dollars.
But following his removal from office 15 months ago, Mugabe now leads a private life and has not been seen in public for months. The picture currently doing the rounds on social media offers a rare sighting.
Mugabe’s last major public appearance was at a press conference on July 29 2018, the eve of Zimbabwe’s elections. At that conference, beamed live by numerous media outlets, Mugabe vowed that he would not vote for his “tormentors” and instead offered support for Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mugabe’s relationship with the current administration appears to have thawed since then. Not only did the Mugabe family send a message of congratulations to Mnangagwa at his inauguration ceremony, but Mnangagwa also hired a private jet to fly former first lady Grace Mugabe home from Singapore after the death of her mother. Grace praised Mnangagwa for the gesture.
At a rally at Mugabe’s rural home in November, Mnangagwa said Mugabe was no longer able to walk and had spent two months at a hospital in Singapore. “He can no longer walk, but we will take care of him,” he said. TimesLive.