Robert Mugabe left for Singapore on Monday sparking renewed speculation that the 88 year old ZANU PF leader is once again seeking treatment for prostate cancer. The media quoted a senior aide saying Mugabe had gone for a routine medical check-up.
“The president is going on a private visit for a routine medical checkup – not because he is sick or anything like that, but one consistent with his strong belief in getting regular medical examinations in order to stay healthy,” the official said.
When asked by Reuters “why the president was going abroad if it was a routine issue” the official said: “I am not going to be dragged into that kind of malicious debate.” The agency quoted another source saying Mugabe would be back next week but he refused to discuss any further details.
An MDC minister who attended the rescheduled cabinet meeting on Monday told Reuters that Mugabe did not look sick. “The old man looked his normal old and energetic self, attentive and in control. If he is sick, it was not obvious,” the minister said.
Over the weekend the Daily News newspaper, who first broke the story, sought comment from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba who said:
“I can’t be of help to you, because I do not discuss the President’s travel arrangements before it takes place. I cannot talk about Cabinet issues but talk to my minister (Information Minister Webster Shamu).”
A government source who spoke to the paper however said Mugabe was going to travel to Singapore “after the rescheduled Cabinet meeting. Since it’s not an official visit, people are bound to speculate about his health,” the source said.
In April this year Mugabe snuck out of the country for Singapore where he spent 12 days. The official line was that he was going there to make study arrangements for his daughter Bona.
When he failed to return on time, missing two consecutive Tuesday cabinet meetings and an important ZANU PF politburo meeting, speculation turned to his health. The story sparked frenetic speculation with even some websites incorrectly reporting that he was on his ‘deathbed’.
Sources who spoke to SW Radio Africa at the time confirmed that Mugabe had an ‘episode’ that was not life threatening. The suggestion was that he was rushed to Singapore after suffering some sort of collapse, and of course he has been on numerous trips to the Far East in the past 12 months.
According to a leaked 2008 US diplomatic cable, central bank chief Gideon Gono told then-US ambassador James McGee that Mugabe had prostate cancer and had been advised by doctors he had less than five years to live (up to 2013).