The big 'What if..?'
Could providence take a hand in the coming election?
What follows is little more than idle speculation, I admit. Neither is it wishful thinking, for surely no man should ever hope for the demise of another. But I can accurately report that amongst the faithful in our ruling Zanu-PF party there are anxious doubts as to whether their beloved President Mugabe can last the course.
At the weekend, 84-year-old Mugabe stood up at Party HQ in Harare, faced the live television cameras, and began his usual denunciation of all who oppose him, Americans, Brits, Martians, whoever...and then he stopped. And coughed. And coughed. And coughed.
For nearly ten minutes Mugabe was shaken with spasms. His speech ground to a halt. A glass of water didn't help. Three doctors who rushed podium-wise were waved away. Wife Grace, three metres away, sat and waited, as if she'd seen all this before.
Eventually the old man calmed down, and was able to continue his harangue. Meanwhile, in the seat next to me, a Zanu-PF delegate prayed audibly: "Oh Lord, have mercy on our leader. We need him now more than ever."
It was a point one might argue, but I left it alone. Instead I remembered that the previous week Mugabe had flown secretly to Singapore, allegedly for treatment for prostate cancer.
The presidential election run-off, between Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is a month away, on June 27. Zimbabwean electoral law says if one candidate dies during the campaign, the other automatically wins. Now there's a thought.
After the Harare meeting I spoke to Mugabe's personal physician, Doctor Timothy Stamps. Was the President ill? I asked. Outraged, he told me that his boss was "as fit as a fiddle."
A fiddle? I decided not to ask Doctor Stamps which particular fiddle, fraud, trick, deception, swindle or dirty trick, imposed on the people of Zimbabwe during the Mugabe years, he was referring to.