Speculation that Zimbabwe's 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe was no longer healthy or alert enough to lead the African nation were given weight on Tuesday when at the opening of a new session of parliament, Mugabe read the same speech he gave to the legislature in August.
Mugabe read the 25-minute-long speech right to the end, with no signs at any time that he was aware he was delivering the same speech he gave during his state of the nation address in the legislature.
Earlier this year Mugabe, who is Africa's oldest leader, fell down podium steps, and although unhurt, the video of the fall went viral, leading to speculation about the president's health.
Today Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said "There has been a mix-up of speeches resulting in a situation where... the president delivered the wrong speech. The mix-up happened in his secretarial office. The error is sincerely regretted and corrective measures are being considered."
Charamba did not elaborate on what the“corrective measures” would be although some Mugabe opponents fear it could be directed at Mugabe secretarial staffers.
Along with the bizarre incident of a repeated speech, today’s opening of parliament was also tainted by opposition legislator claims they had received death threats warning them against booing during Mugabe's address. Last month, Mugabe had been heckled and booed during the very same speech he repeated today.
Innocent Gonese, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party's chief whip, told reporters after Mugabe's repeated speech today, that seven opposition members had received SMS text messages warning them against disrupting Mugabe's address.
"The message is coming from a number which is not reflecting but it's titled 'death'," Gonese said. "It warns the members concerned to know that immunity ends at parliament and once they step out of parliament that parliamentary immunity does not operate."