“Robert Mugabe’s biological clock will not tick beyond this year”. Those were the infamous utterances of Malawian prophet Austin Liabunya in 2015.
The controversial prophet joined a band of soothsayers and others claiming to be autochthons seeking to gain fame, as well as traction on social media by proclaiming the death of the enigmatic ruler, who turns 93 next month.
“My God does not lie. Mugabe’s time is up. He will be dead in five days. That is what the Lord God Jesus Christ has said,” he was quoted saying.
For years, Mugabe, who is Africa’s oldest leader, has defied death hoaxes and appeared each time unharmed and in some cases even sprightly.
The man, who seemingly has the proverbial nine lives of a cat, bounces back each time “detractors” announce his “death” prematurely.
Despite his failing health and numerous trips to Singapore reportedly for routine treatments, mounting blips and blunders synonymous with his age, Mugabe will next year, at 94, be Zanu PF’s candidate in the presidential elections. Most of his opponents in the opposition will be more than three decades his junior.
Exasperated Zimbabweans, especially those in the Diaspora, have adopted a tendency of constantly splurging social media with the Mugabe death hoaxes.
Who could forget a Zimbabwean based in Europe, who used a pseudonym, Tichatonga Mambo, for his unbelievable prophecy that the President would pass away on February 3, 2014?
In a post, which did the rounds worldwide on the internet, Mambo said his prophecy had come in a dream and he strongly believed the dream would come true.
“The current president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, will die on Monday, February 3, 2014. Actually, I had a dream on January 20, 2014 that Mugabe will die in his sleep.”
An 18-year-old teenager from Odzi, in Manicaland province, was charged with contravening section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after he allegedly posted a message on Facebook, saying the octogenarian leader had died and was being preserved in a freezer.
It was even reported that Nigeria’s Prophet TB Joshua had prophesied the death of the then 88-year-old Mugabe in Singapore, where it was “understood” by the celebrity preacher that Mugabe was “fighting for his life”.
Then there was the “RIP Robert Mugabe” Facebook page last year, which attracted over a million likes.
“At about 11am on January 13, 2016, our beloved political figure Mugabe passed away. Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924 in Kutama. He will be missed, but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.”
The media reported later that it had been a hoax.
WikiLeaks in 2011 released a 2008 United States diplomatic cable saying that Mugabe was reported to have prostate cancer and had less than five years to live, but eight years later he is still soldiering on.
In 2014, the shadowy Facebook character Baba Jukwa even gave it a go and sensationally claimed on social networks that Mugabe had collapsed and or could have died.
This year, Kariba-based cleric, Phillip Patrick Mugadza also waded into the storm, declaring “God had revealed to him Mugabe will die on October 17 2017.”
Mugadza was charged with “unlawfully acting in a manner, which is likely to create public nuisance” and now awaits trial for his transgression.
Announcing his prophecy, Mugadza said: “It’s not to say that I am glad to announce this, but I am just saying it because that is what the Lord has revealed to me. It was on December 26, when I was in prayer and God said to me this coming year, in 2017, the President is dying. He told me that he is dying on October 17.
“I am not saying I am going to be killing him on October 17, so there is no way anybody can say to me what you have done is wrong. I am not going to be killing anybody; I am only saying what God told me that he is going to die.
“He is old and I think it’s time for him to go home, as simple as that … If people think Mugabe is sticking around because he wants power, then they are wrong, I believe right now the old man is serving his jail term while alive.”
But unfazed by the death hoaxes, Mugabe has even made jokes out of them.
When he came back from Dubai last year he jokingly told reporters that indeed he had “died”.
“Yes, I was dead, it’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do. Once I get back to my country I am real,” he said.
His spokesperson, George Charamba has also spoken out strongly against the fake death messages.
“You cannot doubt that there will be a story on the President’s alleged death every January. This is not new. It is year-in, year-out; he is sick, he dies and resurrects. His life, until the age of 92, revolves around illness and death,” he said.
Mugabe in an interview with State media last year said he felt so strong that he was looking forward to clocking a century.
Given that his mother Bona lived to over a century, Mugabe might very well be around to see most of these prophets go.