Mugabe set to return on Wednesday
President Robert Mugabe is set to return to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, a senior member of his Zanu PF politburo has said. On Monday, Misheck Sibanda, the chief secretary to the Cabinet, announced that Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting had been moved to Thursday when Mugabe would be back in Harare.
The Zimbabwe Mail website reported over the weekend that the 88 year-old was on his “deathbed”, but those close to the president insisted he was “energetic and alert” and simply enjoying an Easter holiday with his family.
Mugabe left Zimbabwe for the Southeast Asian city state on March 31 on the pretext of helping his daughter Bona register for a postgraduate degree. On Monday it was announced that his expected return had been delayed until later in this week, resulting in the postponement of a second cabinet meeting.
The extended stay, following previous trips last year where he is thought to have seen medics, has renewed rumours that he is seriously ill. The Zimbabwe Mail cited an unnamed source within Zanu PF as saying that he was “undergoing intensive treatment in Singapore”.
The paper also claimed that some members of his family had flown by private chartered jet from Harare on Saturday evening to be with him. But a senior Zanu PF official is quoted saying “the President is on his Easter holidays, like everyone else. He returns to his post this week, at the same time as those who are asking about his whereabouts from their holiday hideouts.”
Information Minister Webster Shamu dismissed the reports as “a lot of hogwash”, while another government source also said he would be back in Zimbabwe by Wednesday. “This is not the first time we have heard these rumours. If anything like that had happened, we would have issued a statement,” Shamu said.
Brig General Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi, principal director in the Presidential Affairs Ministry, said that as far as he knew, the president was well. “There’s nothing wrong with him,” he said. “We would know if there was.” He said that the last time he saw the president, around 10 days ago at a meeting of the politburo, he was “very energetic and alert”.
Mugabe has made more than eight trips that to the Far East, reportedly for medical treatment, last year. He has himself joked about the constant rumours about his health in an interview to mark his 88th birthday in February.
“The day will come when I will become sick. As of now I am fit as a fiddle,” he said. “I have died many times. That’s where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I don’t know how many times I will die and resurrect.”
Other sources say Mugabe was “looking poorly” and overheard complaining about having flu before his departure for Singapore. He also left without the usual noisy send-off by loyal supporters at the airport.
Mugabe’s health has been the subject of much speculation, especially since WikiLeaks last year released a 2008 US diplomatic cable saying central bank chief Gideon Gono had told then-US ambassador James McGee that Mugabe had prostate cancer and had been advised by doctors he had less than five years to live.
Mugabe’s health has been cited as one reason that a faction of his Zanu PF party has pushed to rush new elections.