THIS PAST week the president and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces returned from his annual sabbatical in the lands yonder and closer to where the sun rises.
As usual he put up a spritely disembarkation from his plane as if to invalidate any doubts on his health. It has become almost a ritual that whenever His Excellence takes his annual holiday, rumours hinting on his ill health or even his possible death abound.
This year it was not any different as mischievous rumour about the president’s ill health and even death spread like an autumn veldt fire. The gullibility of the ordinary people was put to the test in social networks where the issue got unlimited attention. People debated this emotive issue openly and they expressed their opinions on the likely scenarios and possibilities in the case the rumours were to be true. In their prudence, Zanu PF decided to counter the rumour by releasing a communiqué ridiculing the story.
By reacting to the spread of a customary annual rumour as if it was a novelty, Zanu PF inadvertently played into the hands of those who mischievously and maliciously perpetuate the rumour. If the president was just enjoying a deserved break from his tight schedule, then Zanu PF’s public relations department should not have felt compelled to dignify the insolent rumour with an official denial.
The official denial of this predictable rumour is an indication that there is something amiss.
The official response raised eyebrows as there were several grey areas. The fact that Singapore is the perennial destination for the president’s holiday should be subjected to scrutiny. Why does the first family always go to Singapore for holiday? What other vested interests do the members of the first family maintain in Singapore besides just holidaying there?
The first family has a huge circle of worthy friends around the globe including leaders of countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo to name but a few. These friends would be honoured to host the free-spending presidential entourage.
For a family with so many friends and admirers around the globe, it is difficult to defend the monotonous trips to Singapore as purely for holidaying. It is not a State secret that the president goes to Singapore more than three times a year. The president makes more impromptu trips to that country than he turns up for lunch with his folks in Zvimba.
In typical Animal Farm fashion, the presidential spokesperson has often informed the nation that the hastily arranged Singapore trips in between the one for the annual break are to enable the president either to attend parents and teachers’ association meetings at Bona’s school or to access expert medical care for a recurring cataract problem.
In the spirit of diplomatic etiquette, the presidential spokesperson would have been careful with his choice of words in disclosing a type of ailment. If the president was inflicted by say, colitis (ingubhane), he would be careful not to disclose such an intimate ailment. The carefully chosen wording is of course a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fallibility of the president while portraying him as perpetually fit for the purpose.
At his age, both benign and malignant ailments are expected from time to time. In the case of our president, an iron curtain has been mounted around issues to do with his health in a feeble attempt to depict him as an immortal that will live for Zimbabwe and love Zimbabweans forever and ever. Most Zanu PF members seem to be guided by that misconstrued belief that the president will live forever. The sluggish and cavalier approach to the succession issue proves this.
Zanu PF bigwigs assume that the people of Zimbabwe are collectively credulous enough to buy the diversionary information that the president suffers from cataract. They are oblivious to the fact that the people are questioning why the president’s clouded eye cannot be effectively dealt with in confidence by Doctor Solomon Guramatunhu, a well known ophthalmologist with a proven track record.
People are concerned about the president’s continued endurance of jetlag in his business class trips to a far away country to have his eyes checked. The people do suspect that there is something terribly amiss.
The official disclosure of cataract treatment in Singapore is minimisation of a more serious health issue. It is possible that the January trip is for the general periodic health evaluation while the other trips may be for the purpose of attending to some chronic ailment associated with old age.
It is possible that most of the president’s trips to Singapore are to mend a blocked artery here, fix a loose hip joint there, set the pace for a slow heart hither and sew up a leaky bladder thither. Zimbabwe needs a physically and mentally healthy president. This does not mean that from time to time the president should not experience one form of benign ailment or the other.
For a man blessed with the rare gift of longevity, President Mugabe should be able to disclose those rare moments when he succumbs to the fiends of ill health. The country should not be taken by surprise when one day he fails to turn up for duty due to a “cataract” complication.
WARNING: While the good people in Zanu PF are shelving debate on succession, Mugabe is busy grooming Chatunga for the ultimate job. Long live the president!
Masola waDabudabu is a social commentator