11 March 2016

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Sneaks to Singapore

Photo: The Herald
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

President Robert Mugabe is in Singapore where he normally receives medical treatment for cancer and cataracts at the state-of-the-art Gleneagles Hospital.

Mugabe left Zimbabwe purportedly going to New Dehli, India, for the World Cultural Festival (WCF), an event organised by the Art of Living, an educational and humanitarian organisation that promotes peace via conflict resolution, disaster relief and education for all, among other things. WCF starts today and ends on Sunday.

However, checks with the WCF website, www.artofliving.org, which details the programme and activities of the event, shows that Mugabe was never listed as one of the speakers and does not feature anywhere in the programme.

Other prominent figures who are attending the festival are mentioned by name. Their roles are also spelt out.

These include the President of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandar, President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, ex-Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and former prime minister of France Dominique de Villepin. Some United States congress representatives, European Union MPs, business executives, ministers, journalists as well as cultural representatives are also attending.

Mugabe is not anywhere on the list of the speakers of the main event and the programme.

Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba on Wednesday issued a press statement saying Mugabe had cancelled the Indian trip because of security issues.

"The cancellation follows communication from the organisers of the festival acknowledging substantial inadequacies in protocol and security arrangement around the event," said Charamba.

However, contrary to Charamba's statement, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo yesterday said on his Twitter handle that Mugabe was not in India.

"He is (not) and was not in India as much as you want him to be there," Moyo wrote adding: "Not being in the country does not mean he is or (was) in India!"

The clash between the two senior government officials over Mugabe's whereabouts adds to the confusion and mystery concerning Mugabe's trip to Singapore.

Although Charamba said the trip was cancelled on security grounds, checks showed that Mugabe never reached India.

Mugabe left Harare on Tuesday (March 7) aboard an Air Zimbabwe UM1 flight which departed Harare International Airport at 6pm and arrived in Singapore's Changi Airport at 10.45am (Singapore time) after a 10-hour flight.

This however contradicts reports in the state media which said Mugabe left Zimbabwe heading to New Dehli. On Tuesday, the state-controlled Herald newspaper carried an official report that Mugabe left on Monday heading to India for the WCF.

Checks by the Zimbabwe Independent show that Mugabe is in Singapore, a place he frequents to get medical attention.

He was never in India. Mugabe, who turned 92 a fortnight ago, battles prostate cancer and eye problems.

Government officials said Mugabe wanted to use the WCF as cover for going to Singapore for a medical check-up.

In December, Mugabe went to the Far East, including Singapore, before taking his annual break in Dubai where he hosted Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko separately before coming back to Zimbabwe at the end of January.

Government officials and aides close to Mugabe say they have closely observed in recent years that the president's heath has been fast deteriorating, hence his frailty.

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