Reports yesterday speculated that Mugabe, 92, fell ill at the 36th Southern African Development Community summit in Mbabane, Swaziland, and was flown to Dubai for treatment. However, these claims could not be confirmed. But here is what we know so far.
When Mugabe attended the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show last week, he nearly stumbled twice. He was wearing morning loafers with a suit. Apparently, at 92 he cannot manage to wear closed and tight professional shoes.
He left Zimbabwe for the SADC Summit, where he nearly collapsed a few times. Doctors suspected it was exhaustion as he had just traveled from Kenya for the TICAD summit.
It was decided that he would return home early from the summit, to rest. His condition worsened upon arrival in Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening. It was decided that his situation was almost critical and he was to be flown to Singapore for treatment even though he does have Singapore doctors who had flown in 3 weeks ago to provide first hand care.
While flying to Singapore on Wednesday, his condition worsened aboard the presidential jet, prompting a decision to be made to re-route to Dubai and provide urgent treatment. Flight data shows Mugabe’s flight performing a sharp turn from its Singapore route to UAE.
Reports that the Dubai stop was scheduled are improbable.
Some sources even claim that SADC leaders were told that Robert Mugabe was stepping down due to ill health yesterday, and that Emmerson Mnangagwa would lead a transitional government with Mugabe’s wife as Vice President.
In the past week Mugabe was in Kenya for the Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development where he held bilateral talks with the Kenya president, Uhuru Kenyatta at the sidelines of the conference. Mugabe looked so frail, inviting the sympathy and extra graces of his Kenyan counterpart who appeared to be schmoozing the nonagenarian.
Mugabe then made a brief stop in Swaziland for the SADC summit where unlike his record, he left before the summit ended. Since then people have been speculating on his whereabouts.
There are rumors that he suffered a brain hemorrhage. Meanwhile, presidential spokesman George Charamba has refused to shed light on the purpose of Mugabe’s visit to Dubai.
”Each time you people don’t know the purpose of the president’s visit, there is always a default explanation that he is ill,” said presidential spokesman George Charamba.
Because of the veil of secrecy surrounding Mugabe’s movements, the media now relies on online flight information to check on his plane. Data indicates he arrived in Dubai on Wednesday on a chartered Air Zimbabwe plane which made a sharp turn in the Indian ocean, abandoning its original route to Singapore where Mugabe has consistently received medical treatment.
Mugabe’s former spin doctor, now Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Jonathan Moyo, who is an active and avid twitter user, has gone into hibernation mode on social media where he is often exchanging jabs with citizens, journalists and opposition members daily. Zimbabweans have already started a twitter hashtag “#whereismugabe” asking for details on the disappearance of their leader.
Zimbabwean state media has remained mum on Mugabe’s absence which is revealingly odd. Whether on official duty or private business such as his yearly vacation, every time the president leaves Zimbabwe, he is usually accompanied to the airport by government ministers and security forces chiefs for a valedictory session as he boards his presidential plane. The state media always announces his departure and the acting president, who is always one of his two vice presidents, mostly Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Not this time.
There is speculation that the Zimbabwean government is currently engaged in a series of marathon meetings which will influence what happens in the following days. Meanwhile, the government has also issued a statement, banning all public demonstrations for two weeks, tantamount to a declaration of a state of emergency. This has fueled further speculations that Robert Mugabe might be dead.