Monty Python in Zim Parliament, Mugabe reads wrong speech, applauded anyway

Can you Adam and Eve it? Yesterday’s proceedings in Zimbabwe’s opening of Parliament were a worthy skit for Monty Python. A doddering 91 year old President for Life (35 years and counting) mistakenly picks up the wrong speech. Everyone else in the house knows, including a live television audience. But the autocrat has no idea he’s read the same thing before so rattles on regardless. Opposition members watch him open-mouthed. Instead of interrupting, his own party takes sucking up to a new level by applauding The Great One’s rambling. Someone has the presence of mind to stop the TV broadcast. But inside Parliament the embarrassment is amplified when, after he was done, Mugabe’s spokesman blames the secretarial office, adding that “the delivery in Parliament should be set aside.” This is the man who is pinning his nation’s hopes on a bailout from a China that’s licking its wounds after taking a $400bn bath in the financial markets. The man who fired a long-serving deputy to anoint his young wife as his successor. Last week he appointed his nephew to enforce BEE ownership requirements that killed all chance of any sane person investing in the country. Now this. Were he in business, shareholders would have Mugabe out to pasture years ago. Instead, in January, other heads of state voted Mugabe chairman of the African Union. All of which tells us so much about the current state of African leadership. And they wonder why the rest of the world looks elsewhere? – Alec Hogg


by MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe read out the wrong speech at the opening of parliament on Tuesday, an error which the main opposition quickly used to question whether Africa’s oldest leader was still of a sound mind.

Mugabe, the only ruler the southern African nation has known since it was recognised in 1980, delivered the same speech he gave on Aug. 25, pinning his hopes on China to help revive Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

Mugabe finished the speech without interruption and his spokesman blamed officials, adding the president would read the correct speech at a later date.

Read also: Mugabe’s ship sinking – deflation eclipses hyperinflation

“The mix-up happened in his secretarial office. Therefore the delivery in Parliament should be set aside,” spokesman George Charamba was quoted as saying by the online edition of the government-owned Herald newspaper.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is critical of Mugabe’s long rule, said the blunder called into question his fitness to hold office.

Mugabe shows no visible signs of illness and has denied reports that he suffers from prostate cancer. He has dismissed a fall at Harare airport on April. 4 as a simple slip.

“This is a historic blunder. Anyone who is still of a sound mind would have quickly picked it up that the speech was the wrong one,” MDC spokesman Obert Gutu told Reuters. “But it dovetails with what we in the MDC have been saying that Robert Mugabe is no longer fit for purpose. He should resign,” Gutu said. Earlier parliament suspended live television and radio broadcasting of Mugabe’s speech after the MDC threatened to disrupt the event.

Read also: Tendai Biti: Mugabe regime won’t manage economic turmoil beyond next 4 months

The opposition booed and heckled Mugabe about the deteriorating economy during his last speech in August. MDC member of parliament Innocent Gonese told parliament that the MDC would disrupt proceedings to protest against anonymous death threats to opposition MPs if they heckled Mugabe again. Speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda, however, warned the MDC they would face contempt charges. Broadcasting was then suspended before Mugabe started his speech.

During the speech, the MDC members sat quietly, while ruling ZANU-PF party supporters clapped at regular intervals.

Mugabe arrived at parliament in a vintage black Rolls-Royce car with his wife Grace, and inspected a guard of honour. The 91-year-old leader was also treated to a fly-past by three fighter jets and to a 21-gun salute.