Ghanaians confused by bizarre cancelled Robert Mugabe visit

ACCRA— Some Ghanaians suspect that President Robert Mugabe cancelled his four-day visit to the country because of ill-health and social, economic and political problems back home.

Speaking on the line from Ghana, some of them said they were eagerly awaiting for President Mugabe while others stressed that they were not interested in him as they are focusing on many domestic issues

Mr. Mugabe was expected to be conferred with a Lifetime Africa Achievement Award by the Millennium Excellence Foundation for playing a critical role in liberating Zimbabwe.

Freelance journalist, Selase Kove-Seyram, said, “Just this day in the morning I realized that he wasn’t going to come anymore. Down here in Ghana people are saying that it’s because of domestic turmoil in Zimbabwe … I don’t know what the official reason is and I didn’t bother to ask anybody.”

He further noted that most Ghanaians were not “necessarily interested” in President Mugabe’s visit as they were focusing on domestic issues.

“I think Ghanaians are a bit different when it comes to politics in other countries unless you are having may be a specific discussion with people because locally they are concerned about their politics, what’s happening with their parties and so you wouldn’t see any Ghanaian being vocal about politics in another nation.”

Several other people said they viewed the president’s visit as any other business being conducted by politicians for their own benefit.

Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Joey Bimha, said the trip was cancelled as President Mugabe is preparing for forthcoming meetings in Kenya, Japan, Swaziland and New York.

But in an as-yet unexplained turn of events, Mugabe reportedly cancelled a four-day trip to the West African country during which he was due to collect his award and deliver a lecture at the Kempinski Hotel in the capital Accra on Saturday. A spokesperson for the foundation told Newsweek that Mugabe was no longer able to attend and that the lecture had been canceled, but said he was unable to disclose the reason why.

Mugabe has a fond affiliation with Ghana; he lived there for three years in the 1950s and met his first wife, Sally Hayfron, in the country. But the elderly leader has form for mysteriously withdrawing from foreign engagements—Mugabe’s whereabouts were unknown for several days in March after he pulled out of a trip to India while en route, stopping instead in Singapore and then returning to Zimbabwe due to an unspecified security threat in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Zimbabwean and Ghanaian media have come up with several theories as to why Mugabe—who was due to be honored for his role in Zimbabwe’s independence struggle that ended successfully in 1980, when he came to power—will not be in attendance.

1. Zimbabwe’s internal problems

The southern African country has witnessed an unprecedented period of civil unrest in recent months, partially prompted by an online activism campaign sparked by Evan Mawarire, a pastor from Harare. Mawarire’s #ThisFlag protest—that began with him sharing a video lamenting the state of Zimbabwe—has drummed up massive support online and translated to a stay-at-home protest that paralyzed many businesses in Harare in July.

Mugabe has condemned Mawarire—who has since fled to South Africa—as not a “true preacher of the Bible,” but Zimbabwe remains tense, with anti-Mugabe protests breaking out sporadically. Ghana’s Citi News cited sources at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Ghana, who claimed that the visit had been canceled due to “domestic political issues” in Mugabe’s country.

2. Mugabe’s ailing health

Mugabe is Africa’s oldest leader and his health has long been the subject of speculation—fueled by instances such as the president reading the wrong speech at the opening of the Zimbabwean parliament in September 2015. Independent outlet New Zimbabwe reported that Mugabe required extensive medical support during the recent public holidays of Heroes’ Day and Defense Forces’ Day earlier in August, and suggested that ongoing ailments could be behind his decision to pull out of the Ghana trip.

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