ZIMBABWE – Genuine concern is once again being expressed about President Robert Mugabe’s state of health, after he embarked on yet another visit to Singapore last week for a “routine” eye check-up.
Mugabe’s visit to the South-East Asian city state, is his third this year alone – all of them for the said “routine” eye check-ups.
Frankly, this belies logic.
This has been said before and I feel it is important to say it again: the state of health of the leader of our country is an issue of national importance.
This means that both the management of the president’s health and the communication of his health ought to strike the admittedly difficult balance of sensitivity and the appropriate degree of transparency – bearing in mind that Mugabe is not just a husband and a father, but also the country’s leader.
Let’s deal with the bugbear that irritates senior government and Zanu-PF officials, and which appears to contribute to the unwillingness by authorities to be a little bit more open about the president’s real state of health – malicious rumours.
Without any doubt, continuing loose and unfounded gossip about Mugabe’s health is in very bad taste. It really is regrettable that this slew of unfortunate speculation around the president’s health continues to flare from time to time – to the obvious pain of his family and detriment of the country.
It is true that like most mortals, our long-ruling leader is neither a saint nor a universally-liked man.
Indeed, the mere mention of the name of the only man to have ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 elicits mixed reaction.
On one hand, his followers adore him to bits and swear by his liberation credentials and deemed principles.
On the other, his many detractors only identify him with pain and misrule, and want him out of office.
Still, this is no reason why anyone, anywhere should wish him, or any other person under the sun, ill or dead. To do so is not just unacceptable, it is both uncouth and unconscionable.
I say this without any fear of contradiction for a newspaper that is often very critical of Mugabe and his party’s poor record in government.
And neither is this standpoint on the matter driven by expediency to curry favour with him and his cohorts, nor is it out of fear that not doing so would elicit the kind of malicious action against us that we suffered as a media house more than a decade ago when we were unjustly shut down by his government. No!
We do so out of a deep conviction that all life is sacred, irrespective of whether it is Mugabe, Barack Obama, Morgan Tsvangirai or some other lesser known mortal involved.
Back to the nub of piece, the fact that the state of health of the leader of our country is an important national issue, necessitates that government be as transparent as possible about his health, obviously balancing this against his rights as well as the interests of his family.
After all, the incontrovertible fact is that the First Citizen is now a mature 90, and at this age, it is a given that the elderly develop a number of health challenges – meaning that there is no good reason at all to try and run away from this reality.
The kind of responsible and useful information management about the president’s well-being that we are advocating here is, indeed, not rocket science.
It has been done successfully in other countries, including recently in South Africa, in the case of the late and founding leader of that country, Nelson Mandela.
Surely, such course of action and diligent information management around when Mugabe travels, to where, and when he is being attended to by medical doctors, for what, can only work in the best interests of the president, his family, the government and the country in the long run – without jeopardising his security and his privacy.
Of course, that necessarily means that government communicators must not hide behind “routine eye check-ups” as that in fact ends up feeding into the unnecessary speculation frenzy around Mugabe’s health, as people would want to understand why a “routine” check-up requires such long, demanding and expensive trips to East Asia several times a year.
But at the same time, the ministry of Information, at least now issues statements to all media houses on the President’s travels to Singapore but we need more.
Are Zanu-PF and government heavies listening, and if they are, do they care enough about the President and this country? – DailyNews