Singapore is ex-Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s first overseas destination since he was ousted from office by the military in November. The 93-year-old who was the world’s oldest head of state until recently left Zimbabwe for Singapore on Monday to undergo medical checks here, according to news agency Reuters.
The former president who led Zimbabwe for 37 years accepted a resignation deal last month after the Zimbabwe army and his party, the ZANU-PF party, turned against him after it became apparent that Mugabe was grooming his 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.
As part of the deal, Mugabe was promised immunity from prosecution and granted safety. This led many Zimbabweans, who accused Mugabe of fleecing state funds and decimating the economy while he was in power, to feel embittered.
The impoverished public of Zimbabwe have also expressed anger at Mugabe’s proven propensity for making several extensive and expensive international trips, including regular medical visits to Singapore.
Mugabe has been known to make visits to Gleneagles Hospital – a private hospital here – and his wife is notorious for spending thousands of dollars while shopping during her trips to Singapore.
Singapore is also not new to the former presidential couple’s only daughter, 29-year-old Bona, who completed her master’s degree in management with the Management Development Institute of Singapore-University of Wales in 2012.
It remains unclear how Mugabe travelled here this week, while speculation that he flew on a state-owned Air Zimbabwe aircraft circulates.
His trip – which was supposed to have taken place in November but was delayed since he was confined to his home at the time – may be part of his entitlement from Zimbabwe’s Presidential Pension and Retirement Benefits Act, under which a former head of state is can take advantage of perks such as limited foreign travel and medical insurance.
Reuters quotes a government official as saying: “These are very standard features of a retired president. You are making a storm out of nothing.”
Mugabe’s trip here, which includes a layover at neighbouring Malaysia where Bona is expecting her second child, will mean that the he will not be present in Zimbabwe when the ruling party endorses President Emmerson Mnangagwa as its leader and presidential candidate for the 2018 elections at a one-day special congress tomorrow.