Ruling Zimbabwe from a Singapore Hospital Bed
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
World Health Organisation
Dear Dr Tedros,
I welcome the news this morning that you are reconsidering your appointment of Robert Mugabe as a Goodwill Ambassador for WHO. Like many others around the world, I found your original decision surprising and disappointing, feelings not lessened by the knowledge that the President of Zimbabwe spends a large portion of his time on our shores.
In fact Mugabe spent 39 million pounds on foreign travel alone in 2016. This is a staggering sum of money as U.S. and E.U. sanctions prohibit him from travel to their shores. More significantly this sum is double the amount that the President’s ruling Zanu party has allocated to upgrading its domestic hospitals.
It is unknown whether this figures includes the amount Mugabe spent on his own medical treatment in Singapore but it is a fact that my country, Singapore, has become Robert Mugabe’s de facto home. One Zimbabwean opposition leader recently laid the blame for stagnation in Zimbabwe on the President “running the show from his hospital bed.”
Robert Mugabe’s visits for medical purposes cannot and should not be seen as distinct from his other reasons for visiting our shores. I wrote about one encounter with Mugabe entourage that I personally witnessed in an article for Wired magazine, “Disneyland with the Death Penalty Revisited”*. I picked up Mugabe’s visit in that article to illustrate the role that Singapore, with its banking privacy laws, plays as a haven for the ill-gotten gains of despots and money launderers.
I have seen how he and his entourage take over entire floors of the most expensive hotels with container trucks parked around the back for his wife Grace and cronies to fill with designer goods. Any appointment of Robert Mugabe or honour given to Robert Mugabe must take his wife Grace into account as she has pledged to continue his rule when he is gone. You should be aware that amongst reports of similar breaches across the region, this summer Grace Mugabe was detained by our police force after she assaulted reporters and threw their cellphones into an ornamental pond. This happened at Gleneagles, a leading private hospital in Singapore where her husband was being treated.
There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that Robert Mugabe will die in a private hospital bed in Singapore. If he dies with this honorary appointment intact it will become part of his legacy and will be an insult to all those who have suffered as a result of his rule and all of those who fight globally for human rights and the eradication of disease and poverty.
The UN’s mission is to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of human beings. You will now need to reverse your decision to reaffirm our faith in the UN.
The Reform Party
* A while ago I moved into a hotel round the corner from me whilst a builder played Armageddon with my apartment, or as we like to say here, “re-modeled.” I exited the hotel the next day through a door held open by a man dressed in 19th century Indian servant garb complete with turban.
So far, so Disney.
The Taxi chief, the only man you’ll ever see in Singapore wearing a pith helmet, tips me a salute.
“Taxi, Mr. Ken?”
I nod but as I go down into the waiting vehicle I am pushed off balance by a burly man who along with several other equally muscle bound friends leaps into my taxi. The doorman rushes to pick me up and brushes me down. “So sorry.” he says. “Those were Robert Mugabe’s bodyguards.”
Mugabe, it appears, has taken over the top floor of the hotel whilst he and his entourage stay here for shopping and medical treatment. (I understand they can’t travel to Europe or the US). One of the porters gestures to me in conspiratorial fashion and I follow him around to the side of the hotel. He points at two huge container trucks.
“See those?” he whispers, “The one on the left is already full of shopping when they’ve filled the second one they’ll be on their way.”