PRESIDENT Robert Mug-abe has once again gone to Singapore for yet another medical check-up as we had indicated last month after learning of his secret shuttles to the Southeast Asian city-state during his annual holidays in China.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
Flying below the radar, Mugabe reportedly visited Singapore while he was in China and Dubai, signalling old age and attendant health complications are deteriorating. Certainly this won’t be the last time he will visit Gleneagles Hospital so long as he is still alive.
Given his condition and frequent shuttles to hospital, citizens, and the media in particular, must monitor his health closely to make sure that the country does not continue to operate on auto-pilot due to his frailty and incapacitation increasingly becoming likely with each passing day.
In reality Mugabe is no longer fit to govern, but he has succeeded, at least so far, to give a semblance of residual capability through flashes of staying power and vigilance. His sleeping bouts in meetings and in the public, though, demonstrate he is finished.
Which reminds us of United States neurosurgeon Bert E Park’s study: The Impact of Illness on World Leaders. Park deals with leadership and illness issues, suggesting closely monitoring the health of leaders and removing them if their condition compromises their ability to lead.
There have been many African leaders who have died in office in recent years, including Michael Sata (Zambia), Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia), John Atta Mills (Ghana), Bingu wa Mutharika (Malawi), Malam Bacai Sanha (Guinea Bissau), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Nigeria), Omar Bongo (Gabon) and Lansana Conte (Guinea).
There are also others like Gnassingbe Eyadema (Togo), Levy Mwanawasa (Zambia) and Felix Houphouet-Boigny (Ivory Coast); the list is very long.
Against this backdrop, the health of a country’s leaders cannot be left out of political debate and public scrutiny. It is as important as their capacity to govern.
That is why full disclosure on Mugabe’s health is now urgent, critical and long overdue.
Of late Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been out of the country since January 19, receiving treatment in London for an undisclosed illness.
A leader’s health is in the public interest, especially when it limits his or her ability to effectively do their job.
It is an important facet of democratic governance and accountability. There has got to be transparency on the health state of leaders and their ability to govern.
That is why constitutions and laws must be clear on these issues, particularly on transitions in the event of incapacitation, resignation or death.
While Zimbabwe’s new constitution is clear on what happens if the president resigns, is incapacitated or dies, there is a problem with the issue of the last acting president as it can be manipulated to suit the political designs or calculations of those close to the president who might have information on his health condition and manage his death and bereavement processes for self-interest.
This has become a big issue in Zanu PF at the moment. It is a hotly debated issue which has assumed dimensions of strategic importance as those who will be close to Mugabe if he gets incapacitated or dies will have a first mover advantage of what to do to manage his succession process. Those close enough can even influence who becomes the last acting president if they determine the incumbent’s condition has become terminal.
Yet government still adamantly conceals Mugabe’s health status even though the media has forced them to occasionally release scanty and uninformative statements whenever he goes to Singapore.
At the beginning they used to flatly deny his ill-health before being forced to later admit he has eye cataracts.
Even though it’s almost a public secret that he has prostate cancer which metastasized, they are still in denial and unwilling to officially let the people know the truth.
They continue to duck and dive in futility, while rendering government dysfunctional.