- Tsvangirai says travel by Mugabe is justified
- Public documents show $29 million in travel expenses in eight months
- Most of the travels are to Singapore
Costly and frequent travels to Singapore by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for medication were justified because the 87-year-old might be having "complications," his political rival and Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday.
"The responsibility of the state is to look after its leaders. If the president is sick, he should be attended to," said Tsvangirai responding to journalists who were eager to know why his and Mugabe's travel expenses had reached $29 million dollars in eight months, according to government figures published quarterly.
The figures represent an enormous sum for a country where the majority of the population struggles to have one meal a day.
Official figures show Zimbabwe spends about $5 million a month. Mugabe's and Tsvangirai's travels consume more than $3.6 million a month, the figures show.
When quizzed by journalists why the 87-year-old frequents Singapore which accounts for the bulk of the two's travels, Tsvangirai said: "Whether you like it or not he (Mugabe) may say I was sick and I had to go and seek medical attention. Who am I to question him? I do not want to divulge (his real ailment), what you are trying to draw me is to tell what ailment he is suffering from. Maybe the attention (Mugabe needs) is outside the country. Maybe we do not have the expertise (in Zimbabwe). What do you want him to do? He is not certainly suffering from malaria as you would understand, which we can obtain (treatment for) at the nearest hospital. There might be complications."
Mugabe, last week flew to Singapore for medical treatment for the eighth time this year, heightening concern over his health. In March, Mugabe's office declared that he had undergone an eye operation to remove cataracts earlier in the year, and that he had just had "a final review."
Last month Mugabe's Zanu-PF party set up a committee to probe revelations contained in the WikiLeaks documents that party officials told U.S. diplomats that Mugabe had prostate cancer and would be dead by 2013.
The U.S. diplomatic cables indicate that information was allegedly conveyed to the U.S. officials by one of Mugabe's allies, central bank head Gideon Gono.
Gono has rejected the claims that Mugabe had prostate cancer.