Jonah Hull :The power of one
It will be a birthday marked by rumours about his failing health. Any appearance the apparently ailing Mugabe makes will be closely watched for signs of sickness that give the lie to his spokesman's claim that Mugabe's only problem is a gammy eye.
Mugabe has just returned from Singapore, a trip officially acknowledged as his annual holiday, slightly extended to accommodate post-operative treatment following eye surgery.
Zimbabwe's non-government media isn't buying it. One newspaper contains reports that he in fact received cancer treatment, arriving back in the country looking frail, allegedly in a wheelchair.
Last month a British newspaper wrote that Mugabe had undergone a prostate operation in Malaysia – hotly denied by his aides.
Mugabe's state of health is the most closely guarded of state secrets, yet it is widely believed that he has been treated for prostate cancer in the past. His 87th birthday falls in interesting times.
As a number of countries up north smoulder, their leaders have either fled or fight on. In Zimbabwe too, and among the diaspora, there is quiet talk of an Egypt-style uprising. Or at least the faintest possibility of one.
Zimbabweans are fed up, to be sure. Millions are desperately poor. But what counts in Mugabe's favour is that so many have fled. By some counts more than five million reside and work in neighbouring South Africa. The educated middle class – the sort who might have brought Tahrir Square to Harare's Africa Unity Square – has largely gone too.
Mugabe has placed great store in keeping his security forces sweet, the upper echelons at least: the officers are kept in food and pay, the generals in land and riches. It's likely that even as he watches the north of Africa burn, Mugabe feels fairly secure.
Ask Hosni Mubarak if 2011 started on anything other than a carefree note and the answer would likely be, No. And why not? Not far away, Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali would have thought little of a man setting himself alight in a village south of Tunis on December 17th. When the self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi led to protests Ben Ali sent in the riot police, again thinking little of it.
Weeks later Mubarak and Ben Ali find themselves in curiously similar straits, not only out of power but also gravely ill. Both are rumoured to be comatose.
Is that what happens to autocrats and dictators when their worlds come crumbling down? Is it power, and the abuse of power, that keeps them alive?
Just a thought for Robert Mugabe to ponder at the end of his 87th year of life, his 31st year in power. Many happy returns, a close few will sing. The rest will watch closely, and wait.
Jonah Hull is a roving correspondent based out of Al Jazeera's London broadcast centre
. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
Editor's Note: This commentary was published by Al Jazeera on Feb 20, 2011. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.
All comments posted and published on Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of Petroleumworld. All comments expressed are private comments and do not necessary reflect the view of this website. All comments are posted and published without liability to Petroleumworld,
Use Notice: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues of environmental and humanitarian significance. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
All works published by Petroleumworld are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.Petroleumworld has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Petroleumworld endorsed or sponsored by the originator.
Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source, http://www.petroleumworld.com or else and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Internet web links to http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated
Petroleumworld News 02/21/2011
Petroleumworld welcomes your feedback
and comments, share your thoughts on this article,
your feedback is important to us!
We invite all our readers to share with us their views and
comments about this article, write to email@example.com
Copyright© 1999-2010 Petroleumworld or respective author or news agency. All rights reserved.
We welcome the use of Petroleumworld™ stories by anyone provided it mentions Petroleumworld.com as the source.Other stories you have to get authorization by its authors
Send this story to a friend Any question or suggestions,
please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Viewed with IE 5.01+Windows NT 4.0, '95, '98, ME,
XP, Vista, W7 +/ 800x600 pixels