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What new ideas can an 81-year-old leader have?

25 Sep 2023 at 09:17hrs | Views
NO one can deny that having a long life on earth is truly a blessing.

It is especially so in a country like Zimbabwe where the life expectancy is only 64,7 years, based on the 2022 Population and Housing Census conducted by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency.

Compared to Japan's figure 84,62 years or Hong Kong's 85,39 years, any Zimbabwean who clocks these years must really thank his God.

As such, even for someone like me, who is now 50 years old, there is every reason to give praises and glory to our Almighty Jehovah God for a gift that even my own close friends and relatives were unable to get.

Similarly, with age comes many advantages.

One of the greatest of these is wisdom — which is derived from years of experience, which should ideally be shared with the younger generation.

There is nothing as invaluable in this world as experience — which is described as "the best teacher".

With this wisdom from our elders, we can then avoid most of life's pitfalls — as there is really nothing new under the sun — and looking at things through mature  sober lenses one has an undeniable advantage.

Nevertheless, a simple fact of life remains that both our bodies and minds become weak as we get older. Therefore, as much it is generally agreed that age comes with wisdom — it is, however, linked to a number of cognitive challenges.

According to a science journal PubMed Central, there are structural and functional changes in the brain which correlate with these age-related cognitive changes — including alterations in neuronal structure without neuronal death, loss of synapses, and dysfunction of neuronal networks.

Without boring the reader with all the nitty-gritties, it is no secret that aging is associated with impaired functionality and performance. That is one of the main reasons the vast majority of people retire from work in their 60s or 70s — depending on the nature of their profession.

Some, particularly in the sporting field, retire even much earlier because the body and mind will simply no longer be able to cope.

Which brings me to the crux of this article: Why should an arduous task such as running a country be any different?

On August 21, 2016, I wrote an article directed at then late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, titled: Is it easier to be President of Zimbabwe than being a Grade 6 teacher? This was in reference to the fact that, a schoolteacher (such as my late father) was compelled by law to retire at the age of 65 years — yet, there are no such provisions governing a head of State.

Are we then saying that teaching a class of schoolchildren is more demanding than heading a country?

As a matter of fact, it becomes even more bizarre when the sitting President is actually believed to be plotting the removal of term limits from the country's Constitution so as to lead the country until they drop dead. This is the case with President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who turned 81 a few days ago.

When I wrote the above-mentioned piece in 2016, Mugabe was 92 years old. Of course, he was to be toppled in a military coup d'état a year later — ushering in his former protégé Mnangagwa, who was already 75 years old!

Why would a septuagenarian be so eager to be the head of State and commander-in-chief of a country at such a ripe age?

An identical debate is raging in the US — where next year's presidential election will likely pit an 82-year-old Joseph "Joe" Robinette Biden (Democrat), against Donald John Trump (Republican) who will be 78.

As much as it has already been highlighted that with age also comes wisdom — no one can deny that the body and mind will no longer be ideal for the hustle and bustle of governing an entire country.

This profound treasure (wisdom) can be better used in an advisory capacity — where such respectable people are kept close by for valuable advice.

Nonetheless, expecting an 81-year-old to effectively and efficiently run a country — more so, Zimbabwe, which is riddled with a plethora of economic and political challenges — is a bit of an overstretch. That is why it was the height of madness for anyone to have voted for Mnangagwa in the August 23 to 24 elections.

Yet, he is widely believed to be planning to contest again in 2028.

Are we serious as a nation?

Maybe the Americans can afford to experiment with an octogenarian leader — since their economy is the strongest on the planet — with a gross domestic product of US$23,32 trillion in 2021.

At the same time, only 11,5% (about 37,9 million of a 331,9 million population is living in poverty.

Whereas in Zimbabwe, the story is very different where 49% of the 15 million population is living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1,90 a day), while two-thirds of workers are earning below the poverty datum line.

These are people who should clearly not be playing foolish games with their country. Zimbabwe is in desperate need of a vibrant, energetic and astute leader — who can take us out of the misery and suffering caused by the sitting government.

However, Joseph de Maistre aptly put it thus: "Every country has the government it deserves."

In addition to that logic, we also deserve the suffering derived from that government — since we elected leaders we knew where incapable of uplifting our lives.

I say this because despite our elections last month having been a sham and gravely flawed, there was a huge number of people who voluntarily and eagerly voted for Mnangagwa. And will do so again in 2028, if he is still around.

But it really troubles me why would anyone – especially one living in poverty – seriously believe an octogenarian will be the answer to the crisis facing Zimbabwe?

Let me leave you with one final thought.

So if Mnangagwa "wins" again the 2028 presidential election, should we even continue wondering why the country remains stuck in this mud when we deliberately elect this suffering.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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