Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s health was the subject of intense speculation on Monday as his ZANU-PF party refused to release further information on his medical condition though confirming he flew to Singapore Friday for what officials said was a follow-up visit subsequent to an operation for an eye cataract.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba told the state-controlled Sunday Mail paper that the head of state was in Singapore for a medical review after the "minor" procedure last month. He said Mr. Mugabe will be home in time for his 87th birthday Monday.
Foreign media last month said Mr. Mugabe had undergone surgery for prostate cancer in Malaysia, but the president dismissed such accounts. Government spokesman Webster Shamu refused to comment Monday, as did ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo.
But rumors spread that Mr. Mugabe was in serious condition. With the president absent, the Cabinet cannot meet and conduct official business, which worries both the public and officials of the Movement for Democratic Change sharing power with ZANU-PF.
Harare resident Alfred Khuzwayo said that given the president's old age and ill health, he may no longer be fit for public office. "The failure in health is not good for a head of state because it compromises his ability to discharge his duties," Khuzwayo said.
His sentiments were echoed by commentator Effie Dlela Ncube, who told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that old age seems to be catching up with Mr. Mugabe.
"Ordinarily you would not expect an 87 year-old person to be fit for office. Mugabe is not fit for office whether it is in the stomach, eyes or in the head ... And the biggest problem is that we are not being told the truth as the people of Zimbabwe," Ncube said.
Critics predict strife in ZANU-PF if Mr. Mugabe is physically incapacitated as he has not clearly designated a successor to lead the long-ruling liberation party.