Africa’s oldest ruler, Mugabe says the years ‘haven’t withered me’

Africa’s oldest ruler, Mugabe says the years ‘haven’t withered me’

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who will extend his 33-years in power on Thursday, once quipped he would rule his country until he turned 100.

Taking the oath for a fresh five-year term at 89-and-a-half, he is getting closer to reaching that goal.

The inauguration ceremony at a 60,000-seater sports stadium is seen as a show of power to confer legitimacy following yet another disputed election victory.

It "can be read as a farewell event for Mugabe. It reminds one of Jesus's Last Supper," said political scientist Eldred Masunungure.

After three turbulent decades at the helm of the former British colony, the firebrand leader has gone from a darling of the West to international pariah.

Mugabe swept to power in 1980 as an independence hero in the fight against white minority rule, bringing democracy to millions of black Zimbabweans, and was widely credited with health and education reforms.

But his lustre quickly faded.

From crushing political dissent to ushering in disastrous land reforms that saw the economy crumble, many accuse Mugabe of turning the regional breadbasket into a food importer.

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