OPPOSITION parties have called on President Robert Mugabe to resign after a massive boob in his office resulted in the ageing leader reading the wrong speech while officially opening the 3rd session of the 8th Parliament.
Mugabe, battling old-age and ill-health, looked tired as he trudged through the inspection of the military parade before slipping into the confines of Parliament’s chamber where he was supposed to lay down the agenda for this term’s legislative sitting.
Instead, a mortal error resulted in Mugabe re-reading his State of the Nation Address delivered to the national assembly at the end of August.
Mugabe’s aides particularly his spokesperson George Charamba seemed to have realised very late.
Charamba rushed into the Parliament chamber and went into an animated discussion with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Parliamentary sources said the mistake had at that moment been realised but “it was too late to go back”.
“They feared embarrassing the President but in the process embarrassed him even further by letting him plough through a speech he read last month,” said a source on condition of anonymity.
By Tuesday night information filtering through from Munhumutapa Building, the seat of State power, indicated heads would roll.
“Most heads of departments particularly in the president’s office and the information section have been summoned to Mugabe’s residence. There is terror and fear of what will happen after this,” a source said.
As part of damage control, Charamba issued a terse statement acknowledging the error.
“There has been a mix-up of speeches resulting in a situation where His Excellency the President delivered the wrong speech.
“The mix-up happened in his secretarial office therefore the delivery in Parliament should be set aside. The error is sincerely regretted and corrective measures are being considered,” said Charamba.
However, Zanu PF MPs ululated and applauded as Mugabe read the “wrong speech”.
To make matters worse, before the suspension of the event Zanu PF party MPs had moved a motion to debate the presidential speech.
But opposition parties called on Mugabe to resign in the wake of his embarrassing failure to realise he was reading a speech he had read less than a month ago.
Mugabe, the parties said, has become a national disgrace.
Newly formed People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Mugabe is too old and should admit and resign.
“As the PDP we have always said old age far from being a blessing is illness humanity has failed to cure.
“To read a speech and not realise he had read it before for almost half an hour signifies the depth of the trouble we are in,” Mafume said.
He said Mugabe is being dragged along against his will.
“Zimbabweans must all hang their heads in collective shame for parading and abusing an old man to the country and world at large.
“We have long called for the impeachment of this man and that needs to be done before he becomes a national security threat.
“For Zanu PF to cheer and clap as well as dance to a speech they have heard before shows we are well and truly on the road to being a cartoon republic,” said Mafume.
NCA president Lovemore Madhuku said Mugabe should be forced to go through the motion of officially opening parliament again.
“It is a clear indication of how bad this administration is and the clumsy way they have run the affairs of our country.
“We demand that Mugabe should be forced to re-do the whole thing (opening of parliament,” said Madhuku.
Asked whether Mugabe was under constitutional obligation to officially open parliament, Madhuku said the Constitution did not provide for this but the fact that parliament had invited him it made the issue a constitutional matter.
“In the old constitution it was mandatory but it is no-longer obligatory in the new dispensation. However, the fact is parliament made a resolution that Mugabe should address the house and that made it a constitutional issue.
“The situation we remain with is that the parliamentary resolution still stands and Mugabe has not officially responded or done what he had intended to do, that is open parliament,” said Madhuku.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu, in a statement, also called on Mugabe to step-down.
“It is a clear and unmitigated sign that he is too old and therefore, no longer fit for purpose.
“This clearly goes to show that Robert Mugabe no longer has the requisite mental faculties that are needed for him to continue in office as the Head of State.
“This is a sure sign of senility and grossly failing mental and physical health on the part of Mugabe.
“It is in the best interest of the nation, therefore, that Robert Mugabe should not stay in office a day longer.
“The rigours of his Presidential duties have certainly taken a toll on him and he should proceed to do the honourable thing and step down from office as a matter of extreme urgency,” said Gutu.
A few years ago Mugabe, while officiating at the heroes’ acre, realised he had the wrong speech and admonished Charamba but this time he seems not to have realised it.
Last year in December 2014, Mugabe had to be corrected by army generals he was addressing when he inadvertently revealed that Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC-T leader, had won the March 2008 elections by 73%.
Tsvangirai and his supporters have claimed he won the election but official figures show he failed to garner enough votes required to assume power.
And during his birthday interview on ZBC in February 2014, he had also spoken about the 1980 elections, when he had been asked about the August 2013 elections, and seemed totally oblivious to his mistake.