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Why Robert Mugabe spent his last days in Singapore

Saturday September 7 2019

Robert Mugabe

Former President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who died in Singapore on September 6, 2019. FILE PHOTO | SIPHIWE SIBEKO | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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SINGAPORE

Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe spent his final days in Singapore at one of Asia's best hospitals, more than 8,000 kilometres away from his homeland.

He died Friday aged 95 at Gleneagles Hospital, breathing his last while surrounded by family members, according to a relative.

STRICTLY-RULED COUNTRY

Why would an African leader chose to seek medical treatment in faraway Singapore?

Singapore's reputation as a strictly-ruled country is conducive to privacy and lacks a paparazzi culture and an aggressive media.

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Its healthcare system is reputed to be among the best in the world, offering a whole range of services from health screenings to high-end surgical procedures.

A controversial figure like Mugabe could expect no protesters to hound him, as Singapore has strict rules against political gatherings.

Up until his death, no one would even officially confirm the hospital where Mugabe was being treated, sending journalists on a wild goose chase in the early hours after the announcement in Harare of his passing.

Local media said he first sought medical treatment for a cataract problem in 2011 and returned in 2014 for another procedure. Since then, his visits became more frequent.

AFP journalists saw Mugabe at Gleneagles Hospital in 2017. It was the first time he has been seen in public since he was forced to resign after a military takeover brought a sudden end to his authoritarian 37-year rule.

He was back in Singapore in April this year as his health deteriorated and a relative said he was in and out of the hospital while in the city-state.

Mugabe's nephew Adam Molai told reporters in Singapore the former leader was admitted at Gleneagles around a week before his death.

Molai said he died of afflictions related to old age.

Molai said the former leader "was surrounded by family" when he passed away and that he died "very peacefully".

Mugabe also "spoke about how he loves his family" in his final days, Molai added.

According to its website, suites are priced between Sg$1,158 and Sg$7,588 ($838 and $5,500) daily, while the cheapest admission is in a four-bed ward at Sg$259.

Mugabe and his wife Grace travelled to Singapore to visit their daughter Bona, who studied in the city-state.

Both parents attended her graduation when she was awarded a masters degree in management, specialising in banking and finance.

Mugabe's wife, dubbed "Gucci Grace" in the media, is also known for her lavish shopping sprees around the world. She was reported to have spent $10,700 on a handbag in a Singapore boutique.

Former Myanmar military leaders Soe Win and Than Shwe sought treatment in Singapore at various times.

Former Indonesian first lady Ani Yudhoyono died at Singapore's National University Hospital in June.

In 2003, 29-year-old conjoined Iranian twins Laleh and Ladan Bijani chose Singapore to have their separation surgery but both died after a marathon operation.

And in 2012, a student who was critically wounded after a gang-rape in New Delhi -- a case that sparked national outrage in India -- was brought to Singapore for treatment but succumbed to her injuries soon after her arrival.