Military deployment fuels speculations over Mugabe’s health

HARARE – Following Sunday reports that President Robert Mugabe has fallen seriously ill, The Zimbabwe Mail has this morning spoken to a number of high ranking government and Zanu PF sources who confirmed the reports as true, and indications have pointed to that as the reason of a full military deployment across the country in the last few weeks.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is said to be struggling to recover in a Malaysian hospital after undergoing an operation for prostate cancer, reports said on Sunday evening in Harare.

According to the Voice of America, the Zimbabwean leader had medical examinations earlier this month while on his annual holiday in Malaysia.

"He returned home to Harare, but his prostate suddenly flared and he returned to Kuala Lumpur and had it removed," VOA said, citing diplomatic and political sources in Harare.

This morning, The Zimbabwe Mail has spoken to a number of his party and government sources who have confirmed that President Mugabe’s health failings got worse soon after the party’s Congress held in Mutare last month.

However, we could not verify some reports suggesting that he left the country in a comma after collapsing at his mansion in Harare, but our source said his doctors and the First Lady Grace Mugabe have been desperately trying to shield him from engaging his loyalists.

The source said, before he left for Malaysia, Mugabe had high level conversations with his trusted loyalists, namely; Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice-President John Nkomo together with the head of the army, General Constantine Chiwenga, the CIO boss Happyson Bonyongwe and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri. The source said Mugabe he refused to meet Vice-President Joyce Mujuru for unexplained reasons.

It is believed that during a seperate meeting, in the presence of his Doctor, the President told Vice-President John Nkomo and Defence Minister Emmersn Mnangagwa that 2011 could make or break his survival chances.

Mugabe then instructed Mr. Mnangagwa to immediately deploy troops across the country to prepare for any eventuality.

There have been growing reports from the countryside of presents of heavily armed soldiers patrolling in villages and and rural shopping centres.

In Buhera, the army was deployed at the beginning of the festive season, stunned villagers when they told them that they were trained to kill.

Villagers near Sungura shopping centre who confirmed living in fear said they were frightened by the message.

"What surprises us is that we are not in a war and yet we see soldiers here promising to kill us for no apparent reason. For almost a week now, about 15 soldiers led by retired colonel Magirazi were camping near Chadzire Bridge in ward 20," said a villager.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also comes from nearby villages.

"They (soldiers) call for rallies from time to time," said a villager.

"We are not sure of what tomorrow will bring us. We live in fear that we may be beaten or even killed. We do not know the meaning of these threats," said another villager.

A group of soldiers went on rampage in the border town of Plumtree, Matabeleland Province early hours of Sunday beating up residents in revenge after their colleague lost in a fist fight against a civilian.

This comes just a week after a group of soldiers also went berserk in Jerera Growth point in Zaka in Masvingo Province beating up civilians.

Another report says, the presence of soldiers from the Presidential Guard Unit based in Domboshawa who are roaming Chinamhora communal lands has caused panic among  villagers in Pote, Runhanga, Molife, Mungate and Mutonda Villages.

The soldiers, who are moving in groups, are interacting with the villagers and sometimes join in the social activities of the villagers.

Andrew Muchenge, a villager in Domboshava, which falls under Goromonzi North Constituency, said people were living in constant fear of the soldiers.

”We don’t understand why the soldiers are moving everyday in our area. I don’t know whether we are in war situation. The soldiers are not beating us but their presence here is causing a lot of alarm and panic amongst the people. They are also attending village funerals.

This is very unwelcome as we are just peasant farmers, who want to go about our farming peacefully.”

Many villagers refused to discuss the presence of the soldiers for fear of victimisation. Goromonzi North Constituency falls under Zanu PF legislator Beatrice Nyamupinga.

The deployment of soldiers started last month when the Ministry of Defence Forces embarked on the programme resulting in the deployment of soldiers in Gokwe, Masvingo, Mutoko, Bikita and Chipinge districts and the deployments have been expanded into Matebeleland regions.

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai has denounced the deployment of the soldiers in the rural areas countrywide.

The ageing Zimbabwean leader, who turns 87 in February, has previously been rumoured to be seriously ill, only to confound critics by emerging medically fit.