A Zimbabwean activist was arrested Friday for allegedly mocking President Robert Mugabe over a stumble that almost toppled him at a summit in India this week.
Tendai Musonza of the opposition MDC-T was detained in Chinhoyi after telling a Zanu PF supporter that the near-fall showed that Mr. Mugabe, who turns 92 in February, was now too old and no longer fit for office, his lawyers said.
The arrest came as the MDC-T, the party of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said Mugabe’s advanced age had become a liability not only to him but to the nation as a whole, and called on him to resign.
Looking haggard, the Zimbabwean leader staggered and almost tumbled backwards as he struggled to step onto a tiny stage to shake hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
He was saved by Modi and two aides.
In February Mr. Mugabe grabbed international headlines and became a subject of sensational viral memes after tripping and plummeting headlong at the Harare International Airport.
Attorney Kudzai Choga for Musonza said his client was facing charges under the notorious Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, and will likely be arraigned at the weekend.
“The offence borders on thwarting the people’s right to comment on their leaders, such that it becomes difficult for these leaders to be accountable to the public. It is actually a breach of free of expression,” Choga told VOA.
His sentiments were echoed by MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu who said Mr. Mugabe had seen his better days and should therefore, step aside and allow for elections to pick an able person who will revive the country’s waning fortunes.
“Mr. Mugabe is no longer a young man,” Gutu said. “At 91, he is a very old man. It is more than clear now that he is no longer in the right physical and mental shape to manage all the rigors associated with the discharge of his presidential duties.”
But lawmaker Joseph Tshuma of President Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party said his boss was still “fit as a fiddle” even to contest the 2018 general election.
“The president is 91-years-old. How many 91-year-olds do you see still walking like that and to be able to perform his duties as diligently as he does?” asked Tshuma.
“It’s actually amazing. So really, instead people should be amazed that a 91-year-old is still so fit and so strong and carrying out his duties normally.”
Dozens of Zimbabweans have been arrested for allegedly mocking or insulting Mr. Mugabe in the past.