President Robert Mugabe’s confidants on Tuesday came out to clear the air amid heightened speculation the world over that the veteran leader was battling for life in Singapore where he was reportedly seeking treatment for various ailments, including prostate cancer and eye complications.
Mugabe is expected back on Wednesday and should chair Cabinet on Thursday.
A source in Singapore on Tuesday said Mugabe and his family were on Monday spotted apparently on a shopping spree at Orchard Road shopping mall.
He did not appear to be in any danger, the source said.
NewsDay has been told that Mugabe flew to Singapore last week on a private visit for eye pressure treatment. The official line is that he had gone to Singapore on a private visit.
“The President is receiving eye pressure treatment in Singapore,” a highly placed source in the inclusive government told NewsDay.
“His condition has improved. He was never in danger. He must be back in the country this week.”
But his visit to the Asian country immediately triggered speculation Mugabe had been taken seriously ill and was “battling for his life” while his family gathered around the hospital bed in prayers. However, official sources said Mugabe was believed to be in Hong Kong.
Senior government officials and a close Mugabe relative dismissed the reports.
Speaking to NewsDay, State Security minister Sydney Sekeramayi said: “It’s just the
wish of our detractors. The President is alive and well.” Information minister and Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu did not mince his words.
“It’s a lot of hogwash,” he said. “This is not the first time we have heard these rumours. If anything like that had happened, we would have issued a statement.”
The President’s nephew Leo Mugabe said he had heard the rumour, but it did not hold water.
“There is nothing like that,” he said.“I don’t know where those people are getting it from, but I think it’s the international media that is misinterpreting reports by prophets. I was called by people including some in South Africa on that issue, but there is nothing like that.”
The media reports further claimed Mugabe had struck a gentleman’s agreement with Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed him, but impeccable sources threw that out of the window. Said a source: “That is not true. I spoke to Mnangagwa today (Tuesday) and he told me there is nothing of that sort.”
Repeated efforts to get hold of Mnangagwa hit a brick wall. Mugabe left Harare last week reportedly to oversee university postgraduate studies arrangements for his daughter Bona, a move described by academics as unusual for a president.
Mugabe — who visited the Asian country eight times last year for medical check-ups — has often chastised his opponents each time he comes back from such private visits, declaring himself as fit as a fiddle.
While in Singapore, the sources said, Mugabe last Thursday reportedly spoke on the phone with senior government officials and ministers, among them Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
He also issued two statements — a condolence message following the death of Malawian President Bingu waMutharika, and on the swearing-in of Joyce Banda as Malawi’s acting President.
On Sunday, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda issued a statement that a Cabinet meeting scheduled for yesterday had been moved to Thursday.
Mugabe chairs Cabinet and ensures Cabinet meetings are not held in his absence.
According to a medical website www.ehow.com, eye pressure is caused by a build-up of fluids inside the eye and is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm HG). The pressure inside the eye should be between 12 and 21mm HG.
If not treated, it can lead to glaucoma, a serious condition in which the optic nerve fibres in the eye become malnourished and lack the proper blood supply. The nerves, if untreated, will eventually die and will not be able to regenerate.
Symptoms of eye pressure include severe eye pain and headaches. A gradual loss of vision may occur, usually simultaneously in both eyes, reddening of the eye and blurred vision.
Severe eye pressure is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting due to the intense pain in the eyes. If the patient has thicker corneas, the result often is higher eye pressure.
Mugabe’s absence has stalled government and his party Zanu PF’s businesses.
Last week, Cabinet and the principals of the inclusive government did not meet as expected because of Mugabe’s absence.
Zanu PF was also forced to postpone indefinitely its extraordinary politburo meeting last Wednesday. Mugabe chairs the politburo.
Under the current Constitution, Mugabe has no legal powers to handpick a successor as suggested by the international media.
In the event of Mugabe’s incapacitation or death, the Constitution stipulates that under Amendment No 18, Parliament will sit as an electoral college to elect his successor to finish the term.
But under Amendment No 19, whoever takes over from Mugabe as Zanu PF leader replaces him as President for the duration of the Global Political Agreement.