A VISIBLY tired looking President Robert Mugabe presided over the country's 33rd Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in Harare yesterday where his advanced age was evident as he struggled to cope with the demands of his duties in front of a capacity crowd.
Mugabe, 89, looked increasingly frail and struggled to walk as he hobbled on while inspecting the guard of honour.
He had earlier stumbled and almost fallen while lighting the Independence flame when he missed a step after receiving the torch from school pupils.
The veteran leader who has ruled since Independence in 1980 further struggled to climb the steps leading up to the VVIP tent to join his wife Grace, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and deputy prime ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe.
He also laboured to read his prepared speech and his once booming voice was barely audible.Yesterday's incidents fed into the growing perception that Mugabe is now infirm due to old age and ill-health.
Mugabe stumbled and almost fell during the 2012 official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo, only to be rescued by Zambian President Michael Sata and his aides.
He was similarly rescued by one of his aides when he missed a step and almost fell during last year's Independence Day commemorations in an incident witnessed by Zimbabwe Independent reporters.
This has raised serious concerns in Zanu PF about the viability of Mugabe's candidacy for crucial polls this year amid fears he might falter in the middle of elections.