It is not unusual that President Robert Mugabe seeks treatment in Singapore because treatment for his eye problem is not available in Zimbabwe. Picture:REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Harare - There is nothing unusual about President Robert Mugabe seeking medical treatment in Singapore because adequate treatment for his eye problem is not available in Zimbabwe, presidential spokesperson George Charamba says.

He was reacting after substantial social media and other reports appeared last week on the cost of Mugabe chartering a Boeing 767 to take him to Singapore to see an eye specialist. Airline insiders estimate the cost of the charter at more then R10 million at a time when Zimbabwe is in serious financial difficulties.

Charamba said: “The president goes to Singapore for a very specific problem to do with the level of sophistication of medical skills."

Mugabe does not sleep in conferences as was shown when he attended the World Economic Forum in Durban last week, he said. “At 93, something happens to the eyes and the president cannot suffer bright lights. If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoiding direct lighting. In the case of (late president Nelson) Mandela, you were not allowed to even use flashes whenever he was in the room. That is what happens at 93 and Mandela, I do not think lived as long as the president did."

“For the rest of his body, the president gets attended to in Zimbabwe. It is just that particular area it was not his decision, it was opticians who suggested that at his age, with the state of the visual problem, it was important that he gets advanced attention, obtainable in Singapore.”

Many world leaders seek medical attention in Singapore, he said.

The state health sector has few drugs and almost no modern equipment, but there is a well-qualified, highly respected eye specialist in Harare and many of world-class quality in South Africa

Charamba did not reply yet to questions on why Mugabe does not seek medical treatment in South Africa – far cheaper for Zimbabwe’s treasury. 

Many medical professionals in Zimbabwe have long been surprised that Mugabe doesn’t seek medical attention from private practitioners in Harare or in South Africa. 

Independent Foreign Service