Mugabe’s Singapore medical visit casts spotlight on African leaders and medical tourism

The beleaguered Zimbabwean outgoing President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, is in Singapore for medical treatment, and he is not the only African leader who went abroad to consult a doctor.

SowetanLIVE reported that President Emmerson Mnangagwa told party supporters at a Zanu-PF rally on Saturday that the elderly statesman’s health had deteriorated, partly due to old age.

“Of course, he now is unable to walk, but whatever he asks for we will provide,” said Mnangagwa.

Mugabe is receiving medical care in Singapore and is expected to return to Zimbabwe at the end of November.

News of the African leader seeking treatment abroad revived the conversation about the quality of health facilities on the continent.

On social media, some people lambasted Mugabe for consulting foreign doctors when he had had many years to improve the health system in his own country.

Mugabe isn’t the only politician to fuel the medical tourism discussion.

David Mabuza

Early in November, South African deputy president David Mabuza raised eyebrows by going to Russia on sick leave.

According to Sunday Times, Mabuza’s spokesperson, Thami Ngwenya, said although the deputy president had taken sick leave, he was not “ill”.

“It would be mischievous to ask how ill is the deputy president when no such inference was made,” said Ngwenya.

Jacob Zuma

In 2015, former president Jacob Zuma also allegedly sought the expertise of medical professionals in Russia, stated a Sunday Times report.

Claims implicated Zuma’s wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, in a plot to poison the former president.

Zuma allegedly found out while on a visit to the US that he had been poisoned. It is believed he then flew to Russia, where the diagnosis was confirmed and he was treated for poisoning.

Ntuli-Zuma denied involvement in any attempt to harm her husband.

Zuma was grateful to Russian doctors for the treatment he believed had saved his life.

At the time, he said: “If I didn’t have friends overseas, today you would be saying there was a man from Nkandla, but he died.”

Muhammadu Buhari

Nigerian president Muhammad Buhari prefers the care of physicians in the UK.

The BBC noted that Buhari spent most of the earlier part of 2017 on medical leave in the UK.

The condition for which Buhari was treated was not confirmed.

The Nigerian president was blasted for going overseas for healthcare, leaving his countrymen to contend with the poor state of health facilities in his country.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

According to Reuters, Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos was a patient in Spain in 2017.

His ailment was unknown, but the country’s foreign minister, Georges Chikoti, confirmed that Dos Santos had gone to Spain for medical reasons.

There was speculation that the president had suffered a stroke, but Angolan authorities would not comment on this.