Mugabe back in Harare after ‘private visit’ to Singapore

President Robert Mugabe returned to Harare early on Thursday, amid fresh rumors about his health after spending almost two weeks on a private visit to Singapore.

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe

Despite the long haul flight from Singapore, via Johannesburg, Mugabe chaired a cabinet meeting that started soon after 10am.

He went to Singapore on 31st March on what was officially described as a visit related to his daughter’s education. But analysts believe he was continuing treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer.

SW Radio Africa is reliably informed Mugabe may have had an ‘episode’ at his home and was flown to Singapore as a matter of urgency. His decision to cancel two cabinet meetings, as well as a special ZANU PF politburo meeting, fueled speculation that he had encountered health problems.

During his absence there was also a flurry of claims that he had secretly agreed to a succession deal that would see him hand over power to Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, something the ZANU PF strongman denied.

Rumours have been rife after an online publication, The Zimbabwe Mail, claimed that Mugabe was battling for life in a Singapore hospital. Citing what it called a credible senior ZANU PF source, the publication went as far as reporting that the 88 year-old leader was on his ‘deathbed’ surrounded by his family.

However as it became clear that Mugabe was back in Harare, looking fit, the publication issued an apology and went as far as making changes to its editorial team.

The visit to Singapore was the tenth by Mugabe in the last eighteen months, costing tax payers about $3 million a trip. A significant break in tradition was that Mugabe did not address the state media on his return as he usually does.

‘The state radio bulletins were reporting that Mugabe was apparently running when he got off the plane, but it’s clear from pictures and TV footage that he was being aided to walk to his car.

‘From the plane the first lady, Grace, held his hand firmly and helped him negotiate the stairs. Once on the tarmac Vice-President Mujuru helped him walk to his car and the only time he walked unaided was when he greeted the service chiefs, which was a mere three metres from his presidential limousine,’ our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said.

Meanwhile Information Minister Webster Shamu on Wednesday summoned editors from private newspapers to complain about reports on Mugabe’s reported health woes.

The Chegutu West ZANU PF MP and party commissar ordered scribes from NewsDay and the Daily News to his office on Wednesday morning and gave them a dressing down, according to reports.

Why Shamu targeted the independent media is yet another example of how badly his ministry is fumbling its public relations,’ a PR expert said.

‘The silence has been deafening in itself. In today’s world, silence is perceived as arrogance. And the more the public was kept in the dark, the more frenzied the speculation,’ the expert who asked not to be identified said.

He said Shamu and ZANU PF spokesman George Charamba should take cue from former South African President Nelson Mandela’s media team.

‘In 1994, soon after Mandela’s inauguration, his office informed the world he was undergoing surgery to remove a cataract. When he received radiotherapy for prostate cancer in 2001, his office assured the nation that his life span is unlikely to be reduced.

‘As Mugabe is head of State, I think it is also is regrettable and inexplicable that his party insist that anything to do with his medical condition should be treated as private and confidential. This fosters rumour-mongering, like what has just happened,’ the expert added. SW Radio Africa

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