By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
22 May 2014
President Robert Mugabe’s frequent visits to the Far East to seek specialist medical attention have now become a subject of much speculation.
At a party level ZANU PF cannot hold a Politburo meeting while he’s out of the country. A politburo meeting that had been convened by the Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa for Wednesday, in Mugabe’s absence, had to be cancelled following complaints from other members of the party of the motive behind the meeting with the party leader away.
His absence has been a hot topic in the nation, with opposition figures urging the government to release details about the President’s health and prognosis. Last week Mugabe flew out to Singapore again and presidential spokesman George Charamba said Mugabe was going on a week-long ‘private visit’ during which he will undergo ‘a routine eye check-up following a recent procedure on the same.’
But video footage has emerged showing Mugabe arriving at a private hospital in Singapore with his wife Grace. The footage released by the UK public broadcaster Channel 4 shows Mugabe and his wife entering Gleneagles Hospital.
Channel 4 said there is a well-regarded cancer clinic at hospital, while information suggests the centre also offers the latest in cataract removal surgery.
Mugabe has admitted having cataracts removed on both eyes in Singapore. Two weeks ago, party stalwart, Mutasa issued a threat saying that government could criminalize discussion on both the succession issue and Mugabe’s health. This has been viewed in many quarters as an indication there is concern in the ruling party that their leader’s health is failing.
As soon as it is known that Mugabe has left the country for yet another check-up, citizens take to social media to discuss his increasing trips, taken at a time when the economy in the country is collapsing, and at the same time pointing out that his protracted absence is exacerbating the country’s problems.
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said it appears anytime Mugabe goes away the country is left in a state of paralysis.
‘All key decisions that need to be made are suspended until he returns. No key policy issues are discussed or made in his absence and this is something that is frustrating a lot of stakeholders in the country,’ Muchemwa said.
In Western countries the health of the leader is on official record. If the leader dies or is incapacitated there are rules and systems in place to assure the smooth running of the country. Most African countries, including Zimbabwe, lack that.
Whether Mugabe has an illness, or the issues are just age related, it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to run a country successfully at the age of 90.