PRESIDENT MUGABE yesterday tripped over a poorly laid-out carpet at Harare International Airport, but remarkably managed to break the fall before walking to his car, evidently unscathed.
The African Union chairman had just addressed thousands of jubilant party supporters who gathered to welcome him and celebrate his election as AU chairman.
Speaking off the cuff for slightly over 43 minutes following a four-hour flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he spent a busy week chairing AU plenary meetings in addition to meeting African leaders, President Mugabe turned to leave the podium and was walking down a flight of steps when he tripped over.
Remarkably, the President broke the fall and landed on his knees.
Aides helped him to his feet and he walked to his car.
Last night, the incident was attracting excited headlines around the world, with many linking it to his age and alleged poor health.
Ironically just seconds earlier, the President had admonished the media for making issues out of non-issues.
“Do not be writers who always criticise. When they (journalists) fail to get something to write they look for non-existing issues. We do not want that. We want the truth, teaching our people the truth.
‘‘I appeal to you journalists to be people with knowledge of policies happening in various countries. Reporting on the progress that we achieve and this must constitute new steps for us to make further progress until we achieve our objectives. That is what we want,” President Mugabe said before winding off his address.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Prof Jonathan Moyo who witnessed the incident first hand said the real news lay in the misrepresentation of the incident by malcontents in the media.
“The misrepresentations and morbid celebrations of the incident by malcontents is the real news here and not the alleged fall as there was none.
‘’What happened is that the President tripped over a hump on the carpet on one of the steps of the dais as he was stepping down from the platform but he remarkably managed to break the fall on his own. I repeat that the President managed to break the fall.
‘’Nobody has shown any evidence of the President having fallen down because that did not happen. The hump on which the President tripped was formed by two pieces of the carpet which apparently had not been laid out properly where they joined. And to be honest with you, even Jesus, let alone you, would have also tripped in that kind of situation. In the circumstances, there’s really nothing to write home about the nonsensical celebrations by malcontents who are imagining a fall that never was since it was actually broken by the President himself,” he said.
This is not the first time a poorly laid out carpet has caused a head of state and/or government to stumble.
Former Australia prime minister Julia Gillard fell face first near the Ghandi Memorial during an official visit to India in October 2012.
Former United States President George Bush, missed a step while watching the Athens Olympics in 2008, and required the help of aides to stop him from an ignominious fall.
Five years earlier, In 2003, Bush was left bruised after falling head-first from a Segway – a stand-on scooter designed to make motorised travel user-friendly.
Queen Sofia of Spain, stumbled at the White House, with President Bill Clinton coming to the rescue, as she ascended steps during visit to Washington in 2000.
In 1975, US president Gerald Ford tumbled down the Air Force One stairs while visiting Austria.
These are just a few examples of high-profile incidents where leaders fell down with the stories hardly speculating about the health or ages of the people concerned.