Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has laughed off reports that the long-time leader had abandoned the Southern African Developmental Community summit in Swaziland due to ill health.
New Zimbabwe reported on Wednesday that the 92-year-old veteran leader’s health had deteriorated, forcing him to abandon the summit.
A government official in Harare was quoted as saying that Mugabe was rushed to Singapore for treatment for an illness that was connected to his long-term battle with prostate cancer.
“He came back today because of health issues. It has to do with prostate cancer and is due to fly out early on Wednesday to Dubai,” the source was quoted as saying.
But when contacted for comment by News24, Mugabe’s spokesperson laughed off the reports, saying that he would only comment on actual news stories.
“My laughter should be enough to answer these reports. Just because it is reported, it does not make them true and I have no further comment on these stories,” Charamba said.
He went on to criticise the use of the word “abandoned” in the report, questioning whether the reporter understood the meaning of the word.
Mugabe has had a much publicised battle with prostate cancer and had had to travel regularly to the far east for treatment, although his handlers claim the trips were just for eye surgery.
Mugabe on Tuesday abandoned the ongoing Sadc summit in Swaziland after his health reportedly deteriorated.
Government sources said Mugabe arrived back in Harare late Tuesday evening and then left the capital just before 11pm. He had travelled to Swaziland on Monday.
The SADC summit was due to end on Wednesday.
“He came back today because of health issues. It has to do with prostate cancer and is due to fly out early on Wednesday to Dubai,” one source said.
Online flight trackers showed his Zim One Air Zimbabwe plane leaving Harare at 22:45 hours. The plane was last seen above the Indian Ocean, headed towards the Far East.
Mugabe has reportedly been battling prostate cancer and regularly travels to the Far East for treatment although his handlers claim the trips are just for eye surgery.
Pressure has been mounting on the 92-year-old Zimbabwean leader within and outside his ruling Zanu PF party.
Opposition parties and rights activists engaging in protests almost every week demanding that he steps down due to old age.
Veterans of the liberation struggle, a key Zanu PF affiliate, have also rejected Mugabe and declared they would not support him at the next elections which are due in 2018.
Meanwhile, riot police patrolled Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and other cities Wednesday after authorities vowed to prevent further protests against President Mugabe’s government.
Organisers of recent demonstrations had planned a “shutdown” protest day, but shops and offices were open as usual in Harare.
President Mugabe, 92 was attending a two-day annual Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Mbabane but left a day before it ended under a cloud.
The summit was due to end on Wednesday. He arrived at the Harare International Airport at 19:44 hrs and at 10 PM he was already flying out.
The privately owned NewsDay newspaper quoted an unnamed government official saying President Mugabe was going to Dubai for ‘medical attention.’
State controlled media, which on Monday had reported the president’s departure for Mbabane, did not say anything about the Dubai trip.
President Mugabe frequently travels to Singapore for treatment.
In the past, he has denied reports that he suffers from prostate cancer and says he only goes to the Far East for eye treatment.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Defence minister Sydney Sekeremayi on Wednesday said the country’s security forces were in control after a series of protests against President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
Protesters clashed with riot police last Wednesday and Friday after the law enforcement agents violently broke up demonstrations in the capital Harare.
Mr Sekeremayi was reacting to media reports that soldiers and police officers were ready to join the protests.
“There is absolutely no truth in those fabrications that soldiers have joined anti-government protests,” he told State controlled media.
“All the armed forces are standing solidly behind the government. They will not take part in illegal activities that seek to remove a constitutionally elected government.”
Pictures of Zimbabwean police brutally assaulting protestors have gone viral in recent weeks but the government says the security forces could have been infiltrated by opposition elements.
“We also know that there will be so many people posing as soldiers,” Mr Sekeremayi said.
“The opposition has been trying their best to get what will appear as camouflage of the defence forces in order to confuse people that they have teamed up.
“But the soldiers are not part of that. Government is in control because there are the police and the Central Intelligence Organisation.’