Despite Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign cash, former president Robert Mugabe has gone on a mutli-milion Rand health check-up to Singapore. Picture: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Harare - Despite Zimbabwe’s chronic shortage of foreign cash, former president Robert Mugabe, 94, has undergone on a multi-million rand health check-up to Singapore. He has high blood pressure. 

He also has regular check-ups on his eyes as he had a cataract removed nearly five years ago in the Parkview eye clinic within the exclusive Gleneagles  

Mugabe is a long-standing patient at the the high tech Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore and usually takes Air Zimbabwe’s only long-haul aircraft, a Boeing 767, for the 16-hour journey from Harare. 

His last medical check up was last December, just weeks after he was forced to resign from power. 

Although public hospitals are largely derelict, with some unable to even supply drugs for critically ill patients, Zimbabwe has some highly qualified medical specialists, including eye surgeons operating in the private sector, and there is one well-equipped private hospital in Harare which is able to treat most medical conditions. 

Even when Mugabe had early prostate cancer in 2008 and treatment was available in Zimbabwe, he insisted on travelling to Singapore.  He has also rejected much cheaper medical care in South Africa unlike many of his former colleagues in the Zimbabwe government who seek treatment in South Africa. 

Part of Mugabe’s pension, guaranteed to him by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is foreign health care. Previously Mugabe would travel to Singapore with at least 20 aides, each one claiming a day rate in foreign currency and accommodation in top hotels. 

Mugabe avoided travelling on commercial airlines insisting on charters from either bankrupt Air Zimbabwe or from foreign companies. 

The new airline, Zimbabwe Airways, which is not yet operating, and mysteriously bought aircraft retired by Air Malaysia last year in a deal negotiated by Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore, is not yet up and running. 

Chikore, a former pilot, was controversially catapulted into a top job with Air Zimbabwe after he married Mugabe’s daughter Bona four years ago. 

He quit the post when Mugabe was forced from office last November. 

Chikore has no known job but he and his wife are building a multi-million rand home on a hill top on former state land in northern Harare, close to the parents’ massive mansion - which may be the largest privately-owned home in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Mugabe and his wife Grace and their three grown children have never been asked to explain their lavish life style and massive assets. Many key Zimbabwe industries struggle to find foreign cash to pay for essential imports as Zimbabwe’s exports do not cover its bills for imported goods.

Independent Foreign Service