PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe suffered a major embarrassment last Saturday when he forgot to launch the National Youth Policy after delivering his speech at the Harare International Conference Centre, raising questions about his health and capacity to withstand the rigours of a presidential election campaign.
Report by Brian Chitemba
Mugabe, the oldest serving president in Africa who, during his 89th birthday, hinted memory lapses and frailty were catching up with him, is currently in Singapore “receiving specialist eye treatment” although some sources insist he is being treated for prostate cancer which has metastasised.
Events, mainly since last year, indicate Mugabe is not well despite official denials.
Before his latest trip, he passed through Singapore three weeks ago coming from Japan after attending the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development.
However, Mugabe, who has constantly denied he has serious health problems, save for the cataracts, left the country this week at a time when Zanu PF was conducting crucial primary elections, showing he has serious health issues to attend to.
Medical experts have dismissed the notion that Mugabe could fly to the far-flung Singapore so often and at a huge cost just for an eye treatment when Zimbabwe, and better still South Africa next door, where anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is being treated, have equally good medical facilities for the problem.
This has given clues Mugabe is suffering from a far more serious ailment than the claimed eye problem amid persistent reports his doctors have advised him to retire. Given his shuttles to Singapore and official secrecy over the issue, questions are being raised as to whether Mugabe would cope with the rigorous elections campaign in which he is expected to go on countrywide trails canvassing for votes.
Some say the reason Mugabe and the clique which supports him wanted elections since 2011 and short campaign periods is the fear he might falter in the middle of electoral battles.
Mugabe, who was the guest of honour at the colourful ceremony attended by over 5 000 youths, was supposed to officially announce that he had launched the policy, but disengaged after making the keynote address, forgetting why he was there in the first place.
Indigenisation permanent secretary George Magosvongwe had to approach him to remind him of the programme to launch the youth policy.
“The president never misses critical points even when he is making his speech, but we were surprised to note he had to be reminded by Magosvongwe to launch the document because he had completely forgotten, suggesting memory lapses,” said a government official.
After the launch Mugabe handed over the document to Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere.