By Lance Guma
04 April 2011
Robert Mugabe arrived at the recent SADC Troika Summit in Livingstone, Zambia with an entourage of over 60 people.
For onlookers at the Zambezi Sun Hotel, where Mugabe was staying, there was no doubting the fact that his health is failing - hence the massive security and medical team around him.
On arrival at the hotel Mugabe, who was struggling to walk, was helped onto a golf cart which transported him to his room. His bodyguards and other aides followed behind. The same routine was repeated when the ZANU PF leader was leaving the hotel for lunch and the golf cart took him to his car.
Various media reports contrasted Mugabe’s 60 plus entourage with that of South African President Jacob Zuma, who had less than 12 people around him, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who travelled with six people. 4 cabinet ministers from ZANU PF are said to have also accompanied Mugabe, although their role at the Summit was not clear.
Dewa Mavhinga, the regional coordinator with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said he believes that Mugabe’s ‘physical condition’ gave the SADC Troika Summit ‘greater impetus to act while Mugabe is around or before it’s too late.’ Other commentators have made the same point, with some suggesting SADC leaders felt emboldened by Mugabe’s poor health to harden their stance on his violent crackdown back home.
Meanwhile Mavhinga said it was ‘cruel’ for ZANU PF to keep Mugabe at the forefront ‘because he should be resting now as he is not able to walk and moved around in a golf cart.’ He said Mugabe was 22 years over the normal retirement age of 65 years.
“It was comical to see such a huge delegation assisting him to move around. The cost is not justifiable given the economic challenges our country is facing,” Mavhinga added.
This year alone Mugabe has flown to Asia three times in three months seeking medical treatment. The official line is that he first went to Singapore in January to have an operation on an eye cataract. A follow up trip in February was said to have been a review of the same problem. But after he went back a third time to the same destination for treatment, it was suggested he had a much more serious problem than is being admitted.
On a recent trip to the Chiadzwa diamond fields viewers on the ZBC TV news watched Mugabe struggle up the stairs. During the so-called anti-sanctions demonstration he spent most of the time leaning on the podium. His numerous trips abroad for medical treatment have also limited the number of times cabinet has met to discuss important national issues.
But Mugabe’s office has continued to dismiss claims his trips are related to cancer of the prostate gland. He was also forced to deny other reports that he suffered a stroke last year.
But those who saw Mugabe in Zambia said his legs were swollen and it was very clear he is far from well, so it suggests there is definitely something more than a cataract problem.