It appears to me that Mugabe is going deaf and I will prove it to you just now.
Take a closer look at the picture above. You can click on it or download it to enlarge the pic. Now you will see that Mugabe is actually looking at Biti's mouth while Biti speaks, otherwise he would not be able to understand his finance minister!!
When one becomes hard of hearing, they will always resort to some combination of using the hearing they have left and also lip-reading. And Mugabe looks rather frail, do you not think?
Mugabe's deafness should surprise no one really, considering we have seen him over the years pretending not to hear the calls of his people and the world to step down.
MDC cabinet members have also claimed to me directly that Mugabe regularly nods off in cabinet meeting, the meetings are unruly and generally a dog's breakfast.
This could merely be smearing or there could be some truth to it, I thought at the time. But now that I see this pic, I am beginning to think maybe there is something to that talk.
I got a rare glimpse today into what it is that goes on behind the headline news around the Zimbabwe coalition between the MDC and ZANU PF.
I managed to get a copy of the Short Term Economic Recovery Programme in it's draft form. This was the document presented to (and debated in) Cabinet by Tendai Biti and which was revised extensively at the insistence of ZANU PF.
The evidence is there to see, because large chunks of the original document that came out of cabinet negotiations are simply crossed out and do not appear in the final product distributed yesterday at the launch of STERP.
There is a huge chunk on what was Page 2 of the document, which goes into some detail about the need for the rule of law to be observed and land reform to be revisited for efficiency, which was simply run through with a red pen by Mugabe.
He likes doing that.
Those who have worked with him recount how, even the speeches that were written for him were not spared the red pen.
He was a teacher and the habit is still within him, so he would mark ALL his speeches with the red pen, correcting various things. The "marked" copy would be sent back to be retyped.
This is what comes through clearly in the draft document. It is only a draft now because ZANU PF managed to get all of the passages it didn't like struck out.
On Page 3, for instance, where one of the conditions for economic recovery in Biti's original was "Democratisation", it was struck out and replaced with "Governance" by Mugabe and the ZANU PF ministers.
Biti claims that they had to give in in order to get the STERP programme approved by cabinet.
He did get his own back, though, if you noticed. Although they had censored the document itself, Mugabe and his crew could not do the same with Biti's speech. The Minister's speech is his own and he does not need to have it approved by anybody.
So Biti used the speech to inject back some of the things that had been taken out during cabinet negotiations, such as farm invasions and human rights and democracy.
ZANU PF are said to be fuming at this display of one-upmanship, but there is little they can do about it really. Mugabe, perhaps you didn't know, can not fire Biti. Just as he can not fire Tsvangirai. They can say whatever they want whenever they want and still continue to be Honorable This and That. Which makes the MDC's propensity for giving in and speaking softly in government rather puzzling.
Here is the chance they have to show the world that in terms of their cultures, their values and their approach to things, they are the opposite of ZANU PF today. Yet they let it go? I wonder.....