If a dictator falls at a victory rally and his goons threaten everyone who saw it, did he still hit the ground?
Unfortunately for 90-year-old Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe, the answer is yes. As the 35-year head of state and reviled autocrat left the podium after a celebratory speech commemorating his election as chairman of the African Union in Harare on Thursday, he tripped over a fold in the carpet and fell to his knees.
The president's security detail attempted to forced members of the local press to delete all photos of the incident, and Zimbabwe's government issued a forceful denial that the incident had happened at all. But since the whole incident was captured by Associated Press photographers, Mugabe is now looking more ridiculous than if he had simply acknowledged the incident in the first place.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo told the government-owned Herald, ''Nobody has shown any evidence of the president having fallen down because that did not happen."
"The hump on which the president tripped was formed by two pieces of the carpet which apparently had not been laid out properly where they joined," Moyo told the Herald. "And to be honest with you, even Jesus, let alone you, would have also tripped in that kind of situation. There's really nothing to write home about the nonsensical celebrations by malcontents who are imagining a fall that never was, since it was actually broken by the president himself."
Unfortunately for Moyo, one of the principle rules of the Internet is that attempts to cover up information usually have the unintended consequence of making that information more visible. The heavy-handed crackdown on news of his infirmity inspired countless satirical "official" explanations of the incident on Twitter:
While the memes mocking the elderly tyrant are hilarious, Mugabe's rule has been a disaster for Zimbabwe at large and even more so for his fellow old-timers. According to the CIA World Factbook, Zimbabwe's life expectancy is just 55.68 years old. It has next to no safety net for the elderly. So in a horrible way of his own doing, Mugabe is probably one of the longest-lived people in the country. His reign never seems to end:
Mugabe himself insists that he is "fit as a fiddle," and he has repeatedly refused to retire. But his days are widely rumored to be numbered amid his repeated medical visits to Singapore, allegedly for terminal cancer.
Let this be a lesson to dictators of the world: You can try to keep your embarrassing moments a secret, but the Internet never forgets.