HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s departure on Monday for treatment in Singapore has thrown his re-election campaign into uncertainty and once again shaken the Zanu PF leader's passionate supporters.
Though the 88-year-old former school teacher looked stoic and played down the dangers of his latest condition, the announcement inevitably raises questions about his ability to stand for the forthcoming watershed presidential vote — or rule beyond it.
Mugabe, who has dominated Zimbabwean politics since taking office in 1980 and whose fierce anti-Western rhetoric has turned him into one of the world’s best-known leaders, has headed back to Singapore for medical attention.
He has been to the country no less than eight times in the past year.
As first reported on Sunday, Mugabe flew out on Monday soon after a Cabinet meeting that had been brought forward by a day to accommodate his travel itinerary.
State TV said Mugabe had travelled for a “routine medical check-up”.
He was said to be returning home over the weekend.
A large delegation saw Mugabe off at the airport and included his deputy John Nkomo, government ministers, senior civil servants and military commanders.
According to leaked US diplomatic cables by secrets-spilling website WikiLeaks, officials close to Mugabe told US diplomats that he had prostate cancer and there was a high probability it was malignant.
One of the cables claimed that a “reputable source” told US embassy officials in Singapore that he saw Mugabe arrive in the office of a radiation oncologist at Gleneagles, a major hospital in Singapore.
The source, an American resident in Singapore who is a patient of the radiation oncologist, personally observed Mugabe’s arrival at the clinic.
The source added that he asked the physician to confirm that it was in fact Mugabe, and the physician did so, reads the cable.
Mugabe is back again in Singapore, although his officials have refused to disclose the exact nature of medical help he will receive there.
Mugabe’s “medical check-up” could hardly have come at a worse time for the veteran ruler because Tsvangirai -— a centre-left politician who exudes youth and energy — has picked up his campaign for the forthcoming election.
With investors always looking for signs of a more market-friendly government, business is closely watching developments after word that Mugabe needed more medical attention.
Mugabe’s health is a source of concern for many, including his coalition government rivals because his exit could cause serious instability given the power vacuum that could follow.
Having dominated politics for so long, Mugabe has failed to groom or anoint a successor, leaving senior party officials to tear each other apart.
Vice President Joice Mujuru, who could take over if Mugabe is incapacitated, no longer has much clout in the ruling Zanu PF party or the military following the death of her husband, retired General Solomon Mujuru.
Solomon was a powerful backroom strategist who wanted his wife to take over as party and state president but died before that could happen due to Mugabe’s refusal to leave office.
Mugabe says Zanu PF is too divided over his successor and would collapse if he leaves now - Daily News.