Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
President Mugabe, who turned 91 last Saturday, has attributed his long life to eating a balanced diet and engaging in physical exercises to keep himself fit. The President said this in an interview during ZTV’s programme, “Reflections at 91”.
“I also ask myself where I derive the energy,” he said.
“I just live from year to year, I have lived from year to year. Yes, I do certain things that I believe sustain me. I must eat well and eating well doesn’t mean filling my stomach, but eating those foods that sustain me.
“So, we must eat well. That means not going for food because it’s attractive and eat yourself until your tummy is full, no. Zimbabweans like meat, but meat is a protein which if taken in quantities that the body cannot sustain, results in also your getting ill.”
President Mugabe advised people to listen to doctors on the type of food they must eat.
“If you don’t have enough protein, the body will also be taken ill. Yes I do have some beef, but the doctors, I do listen to them when they say the best meat is white meat — that of pork, that of chicken, that of fish,” he said.
“But you see, having been bred on beef, you cannot do away with it all and from time-to-time you must take it, but take it in those quantities that do not become a source of problems, gout and whatever. And vegetable — take fruit every day.”
President Mugabe said when he was still at school at Kutama College, they used to be told by missionary Father O’hea, who was also a medical doctor, about leading a healthy life.
“When we were young at school and we had the fortune of having a doctor Father O’hea leading us and he used to say the best way for you children to having good health was having a glass of milk everyday and an egg a day,” he said.
“I followed his example until the doctors later told me ‘you can’t be taking an egg every day that has its own problem’ but perhaps a glass of milk everyday, but I was not used to a glass of fresh milk.
“My stomach doesn’t take fresh milk directly, maybe fresh milk mixed with a bit of sadza or a bit of rice, but fresh milk directly I wouldn’t take it, I vomited it.”
President Mugabe said he preferred sour milk and only started taking fresh milk in 1939 following an incident where they were forced, together with his friend Boniface Gumbo, by a Marist Brother, Brother Michael, to take fresh milk.
“No sooner had I taken it that I poured it all out, but it happened to be the cure, from then on I never vomited,” he said. President Mugabe said he has always engaged in physical exercises even during the liberation war.
“I exercise and I have been doing that throughout my life even when we were in Maputo I used to run up the stairs because the lifts didn’t work,” he said. “I remember (Josiah) Tongogara pondering from where I got the agility.”
Turning to politics, President Mugabe said former Zanu-PF national chairman Cde Simon Khaya Moyo was poised to land the post of Vice President, but was dropped after people in the party started questioning his close association with former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s cabal.
He said Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko was then appointed instead of Cde Khaya Moyo after he received support from many people in the Matabeleland regions.
President Mugabe said he spoke to all the people who were interested in the Vice President job, including several former senior Zapu officials, before he made his decision on who would fill the seat that became vacant following the death of Cde John Nkomo in 2013.
“When Mphoko finally got in and I appointed him I had listened to a lot of views from Matabeleland,” he said. “Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, vese kuvabvunza tichicompare.
“Vamwe vaifunga kuti SK was going to get, vamwe vachiti SK has no record chaiyo yestruggle. Vamwe vakapinda vachiti Mohadi. I talked to Mohadi, I talked to iye Mphoko, I talked to NK (Cde Naison Ndhlovu), I talked to anaMsipa (Cde Cephas Msipa), vese vekuZapu side and finally to me the man who had good record in the past and record which sustained itself up to the end it was Mphoko.”
President Mugabe said the race for the post ended up being between Cdes Mphoko and Mohadi after concerns were raised on the suitability of Cde Khaya Moyo.
“It was Mphoko vs Mohadi,” he said. “Mohadi, when I asked him he said yes Mphoko was his instructor at one time, but said now he is ambassador and I am minister, I have had more experience, ndozvaakataura.
“I told SK that no, he was viewed by many as part of the gamatox thing that he was very close kunaMutasa nanaMai Mujuru, but we couldn’t just dump everybody, others we wanted to give a chance, we gave them a chance and we abolished the chairmanship as it was.”
President Mugabe said there was nothing unusual about the decision to do away with the chairmanship in Zanu-PF as it was the case before the signing of the Unity Accord between Zanu-PF and PF Zapu on December 22 1987.
“One of the vice presidents would be chairman of the party, thats how we used to have it in the past anywhere,” he said. “Takazoita zvechairmanship at the time patakaita December 1987 agreement yedu, Unity Agreement tichiti VaNkomo (late former VP Joshua Nkomo) vaVice President, now kuparty kwavo anga ariVice President ndivaMsika (late former VP Joseph Msika), so we decided to give them another position chairman, ndopakavamba huchairman.
“Takangatisinahwo although when we founded Zanu-PF we had made (Cde Herbert) Chitepo the chairman of the party, but we lost it in 1977 when we discussed the restructuring and revival of the party vakomana vakanga vasinakubva kuZambia vabuda.”
On succession, President Mugabe said he would not make any unilateral appointments, but the party would make its choice.
“The party has a choice, not me,” he said. “I don’t choose, I have said, I have said I don’t choose my successor, never. I will discuss with others yes, members of the Politburo, who can we support.
“So, I talk to others and get their views, that’s how I operate, I don’t just sail on my own, aah that so and so is my successor, know ye people of Zimbabwe that so and so who occupies this position is now my successor.
“The successor can come from any level of the party, but usually the top levels, the Central Committee, the Politburo. It may be either of the Vice Presidents, but it’s up to the people who they think at that particular time is the most suitable candidate and we discuss it, that is how it should be.
“I was not appointed successor by anyone, our own party’s tradition haisi yekutsvaga kuti nhaka yangu ichazogarwa nani, haisi nhaka yemunhu kaiyi.”