clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The amazing photo that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe doesn't want you to see

Good news! This week we finally, at long last, discovered that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, whose 34-year hold on power has until now seemed unshakable, has a crucial vulnerability: a crushing fear of falling down in public.

This could be huge, guys. Huge.

Mugabe demands you avert your eyes from this photo

Mugabe does not want you to see this photo

Mugabe is enjoying a brief moment of internet fame this week. On Wednesday, he tripped and fell on a red carpet while leaving an event. That would probably not be news if his his aides hadn't launched a series of desperate attempts to destroy all record of the nonagenarian leader's stumble. But their efforts failed, drawing the world's attention to the above photograph, which Robert Mugabe really, really doesn't want you to look at.

Just to be clear, the photo he doesn't want you to see is this photo, right here:

Repeat, Mugabe would strongly prefer that you not look at this image.

As you can see from the above images, from which Mugabe demands you avert your eyes posthaste, the 90-year-old Zimbabwean president caught his foot on a wrinkle of red carpet and plunged to the ground, right in front of a crew of photographers.

It wasn't a fall, it was a bounce

His security officers tried to force journalists to delete footage of the presidential mishap, but they were unsuccessful. Photos and videos of the fall hit the internet within hours. Here, for instance, is some video footage that Mugabe would strongly prefer you didn't watch:

Undeterred, Mugabe's supporters immediately began a series of humorously desperate attempts to deny the story.

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo denied the fall had ever occurred, claiming that the president had "tripped," but "remarkably managed to break the fall on his own. I repeat that the president managed to break the fall." Sure, Jonathan. Sure.

Mugabe's party Zanu-PF claimed that the President was just "doing a bounce (like the kids do)." Okay.

When the "bounce" story failed to take hold, Moyo tried a different tack, claiming that "EVEN JESUS would have tripped." Oh, well then!

Mugabe, memed

But by then it was too late: Mugabe had been memed. The hashtag #MugabeFalls began trending on Twitter, with Mugabe's "bounce" photoshopped onto everything from a surfboard to a still from Spiderman:

Mugabefalls surfboard


Mugabe spiderman


Mugabefalls Scooby Doo


Think of the possibilities!

But as glorious as those memes are, (so, so glorious), we should not lose sight of the more significant implications here. Namely: we have finally, at long last, found the thing that Robert Mugabe — a brutal dictator whose hold on power has seemed unshakable for decades — truly fears.

Think of the possibilities, had human rights activists only discovered this sooner! Some well-timed propaganda about how dictators who commit brutal atrocities are more likely to fall down in public could have prevented economic devastation, stopped the use of torture, and saved thousands of lives. Here are a few letters they could have sent to convince him to change his ways:

  • "Dear President Mugabe, enclosed please find a copy of a recent scientific study which found that Presidents who engage in torture on a massive scale, including running so-called "torture camps," are at an increased risk for falling down in public. Like, a lot."
  • "Dear President Mugabe, attached please find a draft of a forthcoming physics paper that may interest you. It discovered a surprising gravitational consequence of forcibly displacing 20,000 people in order to accommodate a new dam and electrical plant: it makes you fall down in public. Seriously, all the time, we swear."
  • "Dear President Mugabe, we thought the enclosed data might be of interest. As you will see from our analysis, large-scale politically-motivated land expropriation is not only likely to contribute to the collapse of your banking system and agricultural sector, and subsequently lead to economic sanctions, hyperinflation, and the near-total destruction of your economy, it also will also cause you to trip on carpets multiple times a day. Especially when photographers are around. For real."

At least now we know.