Harare - President Robert Mugabe, 93, is in Singapore again this week for a medical check-up, the second one in just two months.
But his spokesperson George Charamba says there are good reasons for this.
Here's what Charamba told the local CapiTalk radio station:
OK, this has always been the official line. But Charamba says the problems can only be treated by dedicated specialists who just don't operate in Zimbabwe. Apparently Mugabe's opticians pushed him to take the Singapore route.
"It was not his decision, it was the decision of opticians who suggested that with the state of his age, with the state of the problem he was having visually, it was important that he gets advanced attention which is obtainable in Singapore," Charamba told the radio station (his quotes were also carried by the state-run Herald newspaper).
And that's why he looks like he's sleeping
The president’s eyes are sensitive to bright lights, says Charamba.
"At 93, there is something that happens to the eyes and the president cannot suffer bright lights. If you look at his poise, he looks down, avoids direct lighting."
Charamba said it pained him that sometimes "there is this reading that the president is sleeping in conferences". Not true, the spokesperson says...
Anyway, lots of leaders go to Singapore
Charamba says there is nothing "untoward" about Mugabe seeking medical help in Singapore. He said it was a world-class medical destination that other leaders, including those from the First World, visit regularly.
"There is nowhere in the world where a head of state or any other citizen does not go elsewhere for specialised treatment."
That's a reference to questions last week from Zimbabweans reacting to Mugabe's "we are second only to South Africa" in terms of development claim at the World Economic Forum Africa. If that's the case, Zimbabweans said, why can't he use a Zimbabwean hospital?
Zimbabwe has "excellent" hospitals BTW
Charamba insisted the country had "excellent medical services".
"We have a number of specialised doctors, who are manning our institutions," he told the Herald.
This claim won't go down well with everyone, given the dilapidated state and high prices of some medical facilities. BUT it is true that by mid-November last year, 23 people had undergone open-heart surgeries at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare. Previously, Zimbabwe hadn't offered this kind of procedure since 2003.
And Mugabe has a "very Zimbabwean" doctor
The spokesperson assured Zimbabweans that "for the rest of the body" (ie not his eyes) Mugabe uses the services of a "very, very, very black physician" back home whose name the spokesperson could not reveal for security reasons. "He is very Zimbabwean," was all Charamba would say.
Will this explanation convince Zimbabweans once and for all?