President Mugabe is not sleeping at conferences, but closing his eyes to protect them – his spokesman reveals


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman has hit back at critics who accuse him of falling asleep at public events, saying the 93 year old is in fact closing his eyes to protect them from bright lights.

George Charamba was quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper as saying that Mr Mugabe travels regularly to Singapore to receive specialised treatment for an eye condition.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe appears to be sleeping on the floor of the 67th United Nations General Assembly meeting September 25, 2012 at the United Nations in New York

During the medical trips, “the rest of his body gets attended to here” by a physician who is not only Zimbabwean but “is actually black”, the spokesman added.

The increasingly frail-looking Mr Mugabe’s health has been the source of intense speculation, and his critics say his trips to Singapore show he has no confidence in Zimbabwe’s hospitals.

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He is due to return from Singapore at the weekend after travelling to the country for his latest check-up.

In his response, Mr Charamba said:

I feel like a failure when there is this reading that the President is sleeping in conferences. No. At 93, there is something that happens to the eyes and the president cannot suffer bright lights. If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoids direct lighting.”

 Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe participates in a discussion at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 meeting in Durban, South Africa May 4, 2017
Mr Mugabe was at a World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa last week

Mr Charamba drew parallels with South Africa’s late President Nelson Mandela, whose eyes were sensitive to flash photography:

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 A picture taken on February 10, 1995 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela visiting his former cell in notorious Robben Island prison.
Mr Mandela visited his prison cell after minority rule ended in 1994

In the case of Mandela, if you remember, you were not allowed to even use flashes whenever he was in the room. This is what happens at 93 and Mandela, I do not think lived as long as the president.”

Mr Mandela died in a private hospital in the main city, Johannesburg, in 2013 at the age of 95.

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