Zimbabwe president drops no hint that he plans to relinquish power in interview in which he appears to be struggling to keep his eyes open
Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, celebrated his 93rd birthday on Tuesday by pledging to remain in power despite growing signs of frailty, and endorsing Donald Trump’s brand of American nationalism.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism … America for Americans … on that we agree: Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans,” said Mugabe, who took power in the former British colony in 1980.
In a rambling interview with state-owned TV, Mugabe said he hoped Trump, the US president, might review the sanctions imposed on him and members of his inner circle in 2003 over alleged human rights violations and vote rigging. The sanctions were extended by the Obama administration.
Zimbabwean media loyal to the government made no secret of their delight in Trump’s shock presidential election victory in November. In this week’s interview, Mugabe said he had not wanted Hillary Clinton to claim the White House.
“We are just now under sanctions imposed not by Donald Trump, but by Obama. What arrogance is that?” Mugabe said.
Critics accuse Mugabe of wrecking one of Africa’s most promising economies through policies such as the violent seizure of commercial farms owned by white people, and money printing. He is also accused of holding on to power through rigged elections and the ruthless repression of dissent.
He and his Zanu-PF party say the economy has been undermined by western powers.
Several incidents in recent years have highlighted Mugabe’s age, including a public fall at Harare airport in 2015. In September of that year he read a speech to parliament apparently unaware that he had delivered the same address a month earlier.
During the birthday interview, he appeared to grow increasingly tired, pausing at length between sentences and speaking with his eyes barely open.
Mugabe, who has ridiculed regular reports that he is close to death, spoke about creating jobs in Zimbabwe’s wrecked economy, the country’s extreme cash shortage, and his controversial wife, Grace.