By Richard Chidza and Xolisani Ncube
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe is due to travel to Singapore on Monday, raising fresh speculation about his health, it has been established.
Cabinet has been brought forward from Tuesday to Monday to allow the 88-year-old to chair the meeting with top government insiders saying that Mugabe has not explained why he is travelling to Singapore again.
In the past, Mugabe has gone to Singapore to seek medical care and last year, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed as such to the media.
Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, last year revealed Mugabe was suffering from prostate cancer while some US diplomats claimed the octogenarian leader was spotted leaving a cancer treatment centre in Singapore.
Said a top government insider: “President Mugabe is travelling to Singapore on Monday (tomorrow) after the rescheduled Cabinet meeting. Since it’s not an official visit, people are bound to speculate about his health. Remember he gets treatment in Singapore and people will always speculate that he is travelling to seek medical assistance. But it’s safe to say the trip is mysterious.”
Charamba could neither confirm nor deny his boss’s pending journey.
“I can’t be of help to you, because I do not discuss the President’s travel arrangements before it takes place. I cannot talk about Cabinet issues but talk to my minister,” Charamba said.
Early this year, Mugabe’s spin doctors claimed he had travelled to Singapore for personal business and to sort out his daughter’s post-graduate registration papers.
However, Mugabe’s coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai unwittingly let the cat out of the bag when he told a World Health Day gathering in Zvishavane that Mugabe had confided in him that the much-talked about trip to Singapore was for medical reasons.
The former trade union leader admonished those predicting the imminent death of his long-time rival.
He said: “We all have stages. There is a time when we should all respect the aged, mothers, fathers and grandfathers, because they are old. According to our culture, young people have to look after the old,” Tsvangirai said then of his rival.
Last year, WikiLeaks, released a cable in which aides told an American diplomats that the octogenarian leader had been diagnosed with cancer.
Zanu PF propagandist and serial political flip-flopper Jonathan Moyo confided in United States officials that Mugabe was fighting a deadly battle with throat cancer, according to the diplomatic cables. Moyo has openly admitted meeting the diplomats. Mugabe’s closely guarded health status has caused anxiety both in and outside his party.
In March last year, Mugabe was seen moving around in a golf cart for the duration of the Sadc summit in Livingstone.
Leaked US diplomatic cables state Mugabe was spotted at Singapore’s up market Glen Eagles Hospital in 2008 where an oncologist (cancer specialist) reportedly confirmed that he was a patient. Other speculative reports suggested Mugabe had entered into a deal to transfer power to Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Telegraph reported a few months ago that Mugabe had entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” to hand over power to Mnangagwa, 65, who helped orchestrate Mugabe’s battle against white rule in the 1970s.
Mnangagwa, the former head of the country’s feared Central Intelligence Organisation, was appointed campaign manager by Mugabe during the 2008 presidential election and was widely blamed for the brutality that occurred after Tsvangirai edged ahead in the first round of voting.
Mugabe himself has spiritedly denied he is dogged by ill health. In September 2010, he said that only God could decide issues of life and death.
“My time will come, but for now, ‘no’. I am still fit enough to fight the sanctions and knock out my opponents. I don’t know how many times I die but nobody has ever talked about my resurrection. I suppose they don’t want to, because it would mean they would mention my resurrection several times and that would be quite divine, an achievement for an individual who is not divine.”
Some members of his Zanu PF party are afraid that, should Mugabe die in office without settling a bitter succession battle, the party could erupt into internal conflict and destabilise the country. Already, internal fights have emerged with distinct camps that Mugabe has acknowledged exist.
One is headed by Vice President Joice Mujuru and another by Mnangagwa while Mugabe has publicly admitted he lost the 2008 elections because some within his party campaigned against him.
But while some Zanu PF members see Mugabe as a political liability, they recognise him as the only person able to control the highly partisan Zimbabwean army led by veterans of the 1970s independence war.
Many are also unsure whether his potential successors can defeat Zanu PF’s most formidable opponent, Tsvangirai, in a free election. Elections must be held by next year under the terms of their power-sharing deal. Daily News
Robert Mugabe Fact File
1924: Born, Trained as a teacher
1961: Married Ghanaian Sally Hayfron
1964: Imprisoned by Rhodesian government
1980: Wins post-independence elections
1996: Marries Grace Marufu
2000: Loses referendum
2000: Land invasions start
2002: Wins presidential elections, dismissed by western observers
2008: Comes second in first round of election, Tsvangirai pulls out of run-off
2009: Swears in Tsvangirai as Prime Minister
2011: WikiLeaks cables suggest he has prostate cancer
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