Swift intervention by security aides saved President Robert Mugabe from another embarrassing fall, as he stumbled while approaching the podium to deliver his last speech as African Union chairman at the continental body’s 26th summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday.
Video footage of the incident, which has gone viral on social media platforms, shows the 91-year-old napping shortly before he was led to the podium by an aide, who later saved him from tumbling over after he tripped with his prepared speech in hand.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was not available for comment and did not respond to a message sent on his mobile phone.
In one of the videos, Mugabe, who sat next to AU Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was captured with his eyes closed and apparently appearing fast asleep, while other Heads of State and government, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, were engrossed in deep discussions.
This is not the first time Mugabe has been captured on camera sleeping or tumbling.
Last year, Mugabe fell from the stairs at Harare International Airport after addressing Zanu PF supporters shortly after arriving from Addis Ababa, where he had assumed the position of AU chairperson.
Last October, Mugabe almost fell backwards, as he tried to climb a one-step dais in New Delhi, India, at the India-Africa Summit.
Mugabe’s aides have tried to defend his near-falls and sleeping in meetings, with Presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo saying his boss would be concentrating with his eyes closed. Mugabe himself has often downplayed the incidents, saying they were nothing unusual.
“Some people do not understand why he closes his eyes at some meetings. One might think he is asleep, but it appears to be one way of deepening concentration,” Nyadzayo wrote as part of a series of articles to be published by those who have worked closely with Mugabe ahead of his 92nd birthday celebrations in Masvingo later this month.
Opposition parties have said the falls and near-falls in Mugabe’s life were a sign that he was old and no longer fit to remain President, as he reaches 92 on February 21.