PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will stay in the Middle East for at least four days after his official trip for the inauguration of re-elected Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani, in what insiders claimed points to a plan to seek treatment possibly by doctors in Singapore, NewsDay Weekender has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
High-level government sources claimed Mugabe would be at today’s event, which will also be attended by leaders from internationally-ostracised countries like Russia and North Korea, among others.
“The President will attend the Saturday event before going to Singapore for medical treatment. He is likely to spend five days there. He will be back in the country next Thursday,” the source said.
But another source said Mugabe “will be in meetings” after the Iranian leader’s inauguration.
Media reports from Iran indicate that the inauguration of Rouhani, as the seventh President of Iran, would occur in two stages.
The first round took place yesterday, when he received his presidential precept from Supreme Leader Khamenei.
The second round is scheduled for tomorrow when he is sworn into the office in the Parliament.
Principal director in the Information ministry, Regis Chikowore, confirmed that Mugabe would attend today’s event, but would not say when the Zanu PF leader was expected back.
“What I have on my desk is that the inauguration is there tomorrow (today). I am not sure what programme you are referring to, no. I do not know when he is expected back home,” he said.
State media announced late yesterday Mugabe had arrived in Tehran, but would not disclose his itinerary after the Iran event.
“President Robert Mugabe has arrived in Tehran, the capital of Iran, to attend the second inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani slated for tomorrow,” the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said, adding Iran and Zimbabwe share strong ties and have both been at the receiving end of US sanctions.
Mugabe’s trips to the Far East for medical treatment have increased in frequency with each passing year.
Last month, Mugabe, Africa’s oldest ruler, who will seek a fresh term in next year’s presidential elections, cancelled a rally scheduled for Matabeleland North for an unscheduled trip to Singapore in a move that caught State media, which routinely announces his arrivals and departures, napping.
First Lady Grace Mugabe last week demanded that the President anoints a successor, in a move that analysts said betrayed her growing uneasiness at the Zanu PF’s leader’s deteriorating health and the possibility of his failing to run the gruelling electoral race next year.
The Zanu PF leader has dismissed previous reports that he suffers from prostate cancer, saying he only visits Singapore to get treatment for a recurring eye cataract problem.
But the increased frequency of his trips, that peaked last year, fuelled more speculation about his health.
Information minister Christopher Mushohwe described the trip as “a private visit”.
Mugabe last week claimed doctors had been shocked by his good state of health.
“Well, there is the issue to say, ‘ah, the President is going’; I am not going, ‘the President is dying’; I am not dying and I thank God for having lived to this day. I thank God also for giving me good life.
“I will have an ailment here and there. I go to the doctors like anyone else, but body-wise, all my organs, my heart, my liver, inside here, very firm, very strong! And recently, doctors were amazed saying, ‘you were born so strong, your bone system’, and I said it’s through God’s grace,” the Zanu PF leader said.
Mugabe spent a staggering 77 days out of the country between January and May as his love for foreign travel continued to drain the cash-strapped government, gobbling over $50 million, according to information from Treasury.