Takunda Maodza Assistant News Editor—
President Mugabe’s physician is a black Zimbabwean practising in the country and the Head of State and Government only flies to Singapore for specialised attention on his eyes on the advice of local opticians, Presidential spokesman Mr George Charamba has said. There is also nothing amiss in the President or any other Zimbabwean seeking specialised treatment abroad, as even Presidents of First World countries get attention in countries like Singapore, he added.
Speaking on Zimpapers’ CapiTalk radio during debate on the recent classification of Zimbabwe as a fragile State at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in South Africa, Mr Charamba said there was nothing amiss in the President’s routine eye check-ups in Singapore.
“Let me address that because I notice it is a narrative which keeps coming back,” Mr Charamba said.
“As a matter of fact, and let this be known to all Zimbabweans — the physician of the President is not only Zimbabwean, he is actually black.
“For security reasons I will not tell you the real name. He is very Zimbabwean. He is very, very, very black.
“The President goes to Singapore for a very specific problem which has to do with the level of sophistication of medical skills that we have developed,” he said.
“It has to do with his eyes and often I have felt very, very pained. In fact, I feel like a failure when there is this reading that the President is sleeping in conferences, no.”
Added Mr Charamba: “At 93, there is something that happens to the eyes and the President cannot suffer bright lights. If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoids direct lighting. In the case of Mandela, if you remember, 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. Let us disabuse ourselves.
“For the rest of his body, the President gets attended to here. It is just that particular area and even then, it was not his decision, it was the decision of opticians who suggested that with the state of his age, with the state of the problem he was having visually, it was important that he gets advanced attention which is obtainable in Singapore.”
There was nothing untoward in the President seeking specialised attention in Singapore, Mr Charamba said.
“And by the way, that is an international health dispensing institution,” he said. “You meet First World leaders there who are coming for medical assistance in Singapore.
“So, really, there is nothing untoward in the President of Zimbabwe, who has an African Zimbabwean physician, going abroad for specialised treatment the same way that there won’t be anything untoward in Mai Charamba leaving this country to go to South Africa for specialised attention.
“That does not take away the fact that we have an excellent medical services provision in this country. We have a number of specialised doctors, who are manning our institutions.”
Mr Charamba acknowledged that there are challenges relating to provision of health services in the country, among them cost of access.
“That is a fact that we have to address as a Government,” he said. “I happen to know that it is a burning issue with Cabinet. Let us not get these easy explanations and easy answers.
“There is nowhere in the world where a Head of State or any other citizen does not go elsewhere for specialised treatment. It all depends on the level of development and we are a developing country. There is that level of intervention we have to expect, but that is only in respect of the eyes.”