Journalist fired for report

2012-04-14 15:25

The news editor of the website that reported that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was “on his deathbed” in Singapore has been sacked after Mugabe arrived back in Harare seemingly in good health.

On Monday the website – thezimbabwemail.com – reported that Mugabe was rushed to hospital in Singapore and admitted.

Although the report went viral on the internet and microblogging sites like Twitter, Mugabe’s aides and ministers took their time before denouncing the news, fuelling more speculation.

Eventually, they said Mugabe went to Singapore to enrol his daughter for a master’s degree, although it was unclear why he needed to stay in Singapore for two weeks to do so.

Mugabe arrived in Harare on Thursday, but did not speak to the media on arrival and headed straight to a Cabinet meeting.

On Thursday the website announced that its news editor, Tendai Matarutse, was given the boot. The website insists its source
was a high-level government official, but admitted it was misled.

According to high-level Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sources who serve in Cabinet, Mugabe collapsed in Harare and was flown hurriedly to Singapore, where he spent two weeks in hospital. But they say the “deathbed” reports were exaggerated.

Mugabe’s aides could also not explain why he moved two Cabinet meetings – one before Easter and one this week – if he was merely going for a university enrolment.

He also missed a high-level visit by top Chinese government officials, who were in Zimbabwe to launch a multimillion-dollar investment project. Or maybe he simply puts education before economic liberation?

Mugabe was flown to Singapore in a jet owned by Mbada Diamonds, a diamond company making money in the controversial Marange diamond fields.

Air Zimbabwe has been grounded and until it gets a bailout Mugabe, who travelled to Singapore eight times last year, will have to rely on businessmen with deep pockets.

But the one man who benefited from the drama is Mugabe’s defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to the website, which is rumoured to be funded by Mnangagwa, the defence minister was “anointed” by Mugabe as his successor.

While a low-intensity war exists between Mnangagwa and vice-president Joice Mujuru, it looked for a while that Mujuru was in the pound seat, locals observers say, shifting Mnangagwa sideways.

Last Sunday the Telegraph in London reported how a “gentleman’s agreement” was initiated by Mugabe in 2008, which dictates Mnangagwa will take over the reins from Mugabe.

No details were given about how the defence minister would ascend to the throne and Mugabe has at no point shown much appetite for succession talk.

Well-known African prophet TB Joshua wreaked havoc in government circles when he predicted an African leader would die this year.

Although it was accepted he was talking about Mugabe, it was in fact Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika, who passed away last week.

Meanwhile, the Constitution-writing process has been completed, with Zanu-PF managing to scrap clauses that dictate the age of a president.

In an attempt to exempt Mugabe from presidential candidacy, the MDC wanted to put an age limit for a president into the Constitution.

This was scrapped by Zanu-PF. The Constitution will also provide for only one deputy president and will scrap the post of prime minister.

Once the Constitution has been approved by Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, it will be put to a countrywide referendum.

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