President Robert Mugabe left Harare for fresh “health check-ups” in Singapore yesterday, hardly a week after rejecting the profiling that Zimbabwe was “a fragile State” and instead declaring it is the second ‘most developed‘ in Africa.
Top government sources yesterday said 93 years old Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence from Britain 37 years ago — would travel to the Far East for what has become a common feature on his diary of “routine medical check-up”.
“The President will travel to Singapore today (yesterday) for the usual (treatment). He will likely come back on Friday or Saturday ahead of (former Chief Justice Godfrey) Chidyausiku’s burial,” NewsDay heard.
Mugabe moved the sitting of Cabinet from the traditional Tuesday to yesterday so he could travel. State media reported at the weekend that Mugabe’s chief of staff Misheck Sibanda made the announcement.
“The Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, wishes to advise Cabinet ministers that the next Cabinet meeting will be on Monday 8th May 2017 at the usual venue,” a State-run weekly paper said.
Sibanda did not give reasons, but the paper said the Cabinet meeting could be moved “to accommodate arising circumstances”.
Information minister Christopher Mushowe confirmed Mugabe would be travelling.
“Yes, he is travelling on private business,” Mushowe said without elaborating on the destination and other details.
Mugabe last week told a World Economic Forum panel discussion in Durban, South Africa, on fragile States that Zimbabwe was the second most developed country on the continent after South Africa, drawing brickbats from opposition parties and critics who accused him of running down the country.
With over 4 million citizens living on donor food handouts, industrial production virtually non-existent and citizens living in bank queues to access cash, Mugabe’s claims were viewed as indicating detachment from reality.
Opposition MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party felt sorry for Mugabe “who is living in dreamland.”
“Mugabe is in denial. He needs to come back to reality. The country is sinking deeper into a political and socio-economic hell-hole each day he remains in office,” Gutu said.
“Mugabe isn’t bothered because he spends most of his time in Singapore or Dubai, accessing the best medical treatment that money can buy. Back home in Zimbabwe, the public health delivery system is a complete shambles, the road and railway infrastructure has virtually collapsed and ordinary people can’t even access their money from the banks because of the grinding cash shortage.”
Socio-political commentator and legal expert Alex Magaisa accused Mugabe of hypocrisy.
“This confirms a familiar pattern of hypocrisy, where the leader extols the virtues of a country, while choosing services from foreign countries. He goes to Singapore because it has an advanced medical system, which he has failed to provide to the rest of his fellow citizens back home,” Magaisa said.
“It’s an Animal Farm scenario where some animals are considered more equal than others. Zimbabwe may not be fragile to him and his immediate circle, but for the rest of the citizens it is a severely depleted and impecunious State.”
The People’s Democratic Party in a statement also said Mugabe’s ignorance was “itself a crisis”.
“The suggestion that Zimbabwe is Africa’s second most developed economy is pathological and reflective of exhaustion, cognitive dissonance and dementia. As a foreign-based President who once in a while visits the country he claims to lead, he probably mistakes Zimbabwe for Malaysia or Singapore where he spends much of his time,” the opposition party said.
Political analyst Ricky Mukonza said Mugabe was demonstrating the arrogance of power.
“His statement just demonstrates the arrogance of power that is a defining characteristic of the Zanu PF leadership. They misrule the country and still have the temerity to lie to the world about the state of affairs,” Mukonza said.
With failing health and advanced age, Mugabe’s visits to the Far East have become even more frequent.