Mugabe leaves Zimbabwe for the first time after coup

A February 21, 2017 photo of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during a private ceremony to celebrate his 93rd birthday in Harare. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe flew to Singapore on Monday night, leaving the country for the first time since he was toppled by the military last month.

The 93-year-old, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years, was forced to resign on November 21 after he was put under house arrest by the army.

According to the privately owned NewsDay newspaper, Mr Mugabe was going for a routine medical check-up in Singapore before flying to Malaysia where his daughter is expecting her second child.

He was accompanied by his wife Grace Mugabe and some unnamed government officials. Before his ouster, the former president frequented Singapore for medical treatment.

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A US cable leaked by WiliLeaks in 2008 quoted a close aide claiming the then strongman suffered from advanced prostate cancer.

Mr Mugabe himself often dismissed reports that he was terminally ill. He said he only went to Singapore for treatment of eye cataracts.

The government was said to be funding his latest trip in which he used a plane provided by Air Zimbabwe.

However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba, who was Mr Mugabe’s long serving aide, said he did not know anything about the trip.

“I am no longer in touch with the retired president,” he told NewsDay.

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“I don’t really know who will help you and I don’t know the structure, which is servicing him.”

One of the reasons the ruling party turned against its leader was that he was now too old and no longer fit to govern.

Initially Mr Mugabe resisted the pressure to step down and argued that he must be allowed to complete his term next year.

He had also been endorsed to represent the ruling party in the 2018 elections.

The endorsement was, however, withdrawn after the military takeover that was sparked by the president’s decision to fire his then deputy, Mr Mnangagwa.

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