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DESPITE frantic attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s publicists to convince the public the president is still fit to govern, latest information gathered from his family and inner circle shows that behind the scenes it is no longer business as usual for him — his situation is fast deteriorating and panic is rife.

Insiders say the harsh reality emerging shows the President, currently in Singapore for medical review and treatment, is now barely able to function. They say Mugabe’s worsening ill-health problems have now become a clear and present danger to government functionality and the security of the nation.

"Bureaucrats like George Charamba (the president’s spokesman) can say whatever they want, but the truth is Mugabe is now hardly able to function properly given the strenuous demands of his position. The old man is facing so many problems; diminished eyesight or vision impairment, a serious loss of vision in other words. This has greatly decreased his ability to see to a point where this is no longer fixable by usual means, such as glasses or contact lenses. Because of old age and associated complications, there has been a noticeable decline in his cognitive abilities, including thinking, memory and speech skills," a senior government official, close to Mugabe’s family, said yesterday.

Those inside Mugabe’s circle also say on top of waning vision, he is barely able to walk and needs support most of the time. This has led to his family and close security aides beefing up support around him.

These days Mugabe is often seen in public surrounded by a mob of security aides – at least five — moving closely around him. Insiders say this is a new security strategy designed to prevent him from stumbling or falling due to aggravated frailty. It is also aimed at protecting him from close public scrutiny, over and above providing him with normal security, insiders say.

Although government insists Mugabe is mainly suffering from eye cataracts, which have greatly diminished his eyesight and severely degraded his capacity to work, the story of him having prostate cancer which has metastasized has refused to go away, particularly given his increasing shuttles to Singapore.

"While a decade ago, he used to climb Air Zimbabwe flight boarding steps almost running, he is now unable climb very small or low steps. As a result a lift has had to be installed for him to be able to attend cabinet and access his offices on the first floor of Munhumutapa Building," another official said. "The situation is very serious and his aides (especially his nephew Wonder) are the ones who keep him going."

Insiders say Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies in the military are also closely monitoring Mugabe’s health situation with the strategy of "sliding into the vacuum" should he become incapacitated or dies.


"Even if there are constitutional arrangements of what happens when Mugabe retires, is incapacitated or dies, Mnangagwa and his security sector backers are geared to budge their way in after Mugabe. Even if (Vice-President Phelekezela) Mphoko becomes the acting president for 90 days, thereafter they see themselves using their security infrastructure and institutional control to seize power — not in a coup but a military tutelage situation. These are no longer just hypothetical scenarios among succession actors, but empirical strategies."

Following public quarrels between Mugabe, his wife and the military, army commanders are said to have resolved to support Mnangagwa’s presidential bid although they remain loyal to the commander-in-chief. The military’s stance has been a great source of discomfort for Grace and her G40 allies.

Mugabe’s deteriorating health has also fuelled conflict among the two main Zanu PF factions, one led by Mnangagwa and the G40 faction which has coalesced around Grace.

The two factions are said to be itching for an extraordinary congress as fears mount that the president may not have the stamina to stand in next year’s elections.

"The Mnangagwa faction wants the extraordinary congress so that a new party leader may be chosen before elections next year. The faction believes Mnangagwa will win given that the G40 faction appears not to have a solid candidate at the moment and is merely relying on Grace’s proximity to power," said one official.

"The G40 faction has been pushing for an extraordinary congress, hoping Mugabe would be strong enough to stand but it is increasingly seeing that the chances for him to stand are diminishing with each passing day. The faction wants a congress at which vice-presidents would be elected to remove Mnangagwa and even replaced him with Grace. The Mnangagwa camp simply wants the elective congress to put its leader to become the party’s candidate in next year’s elections."








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