If you haven’t learnt the #MugabeDance yet – now is the time. We are of course speaking of the incident a few days ago where the President of Zimbabwe accidentally fell ungraciously while walking to his car after having offered his speech in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. It is not that we would usually laugh at elderly people stumbling or accidentally falling. In fact that’s just not done, however in this case… Maybe its because the images of the President taking a tumble – a man who is responsible numerous human rights violations and brutal repression of his own population – is too tempting not to have some fun with.
The sad reality is that there has not been much to laugh about when it comes to Zimbabwe in recent times. Yet, people all over the world are enjoying poking fun at a 90-year old man falling without feeling bad about it. Perhaps Mugabe’s attempt to still the media by wanting to have photos deleted from cameras at the scene by security personnel just stoked the fire and the news spread over social media at lightening speed. Making fun of Mugabe’s physical fall has become a symbol of his unpopularity. But not even #Mugabe can strangle or kill social media. It did not take long before the amount of MugabeFalls memes had multiplied and people around the world started doing the #MugabeDance imitating the fall.
As damage was already done, pro-Mugabe media have subsequently attempted to spin the incident into a triumph for the world’s oldest leader. “President Mugabe’s slip at Harare international airport last week must surely be a gift from God,” said the Sunday Mail newspaper, perceived part of the government mouthpiece. Sunday Mail reflected upon the President’s physical fitness enabling him to bounce back from the fall. The politics of propaganda is nothing new to the Mugabe’s regime. In 2006, propaganda propelled Mugabe to the top. Propaganda has contributed to keep him in power ever since and it might also give him victory in the elections in 2018 for which Mugabe have announced his candidature.
To the extent Mugabe’s propaganda machine continues to keep Mugabe in power remains to be seen. Since 1998 Mugabe’s policies have increasingly received domestic as well as international denunciation. The citizens of Zimbabwe have under Mugabe regime suffered from severe and systematic economic mismanagement, grave human rights violations, corruption and brutal repression. Many raised their eyebrows to the appointment of the Zimbabwean President to the chairmanship of the African Union, a decision that could negatively impact African-European relations.
Whilst the majority regret #MugabeFalls was not ‘the fall of Mugabe’ as such – the worldwide reaction of his physical fall illustrates the absence of international support of Mugabe’s regime. The world does not laugh of Mugabe falling. They are communicating that they want Mugabe gone. #MugabeFalls