Robert Mugabe’s Health In Question…Again

Written by Dana Sanchez

Why is is Robert Mugabe’s health in question…again? The government says this happens every time he goes on vacation. This time, it may be different.

Zimbabwean authorities today denied reports that President Robert Mugabe has extended his annual leave due to ill health, AFP reports.

The Zimbabwe government denied that Mugabe, 89, is ill, saying the same rumors surface every year during Mugabe’s annual vacation, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mugabe, who’s 90th birthday is in February, is taking his “normal” January vacation, said Psychology Maziwisa, spokesperson for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, in a phone interview with Bloomberg.

“Reports of the president’s ill health are nonsense and he will be celebrating his birthday next month,” Maziwisa said from the capital, Harare.

South Africa’s Business Day newspaper and “Baba Jukwa,” an unidentified Facebook
blogger who exposes wrongdoings by Zimbabwean politicians for 391,000 followers, raised questions about Mugabe’s health, Bloomberg reported.

Zimbabwe Vice President Joice Mujuru is acting president until Mugabe returns to
work in February, Maziwisa said. In July, Mugabe was re-elected for a five-year term, extending his 33 years in power.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba told AFP the president isn’t due back from vacation until the end of January. “He is still on leave and how can he be seeking an extension when we have not come to the end of January?”

Mugabe has been on vacation since early January, and made one of his regular visits to Singapore.

The government announced earlier that Mujuru will be acting president until the end of January.

There is talk that his visits to the Far East are for medical treatment, AFP reports.
“In 2011 he said in jest that he had resurrected more times than Jesus Christ, after media reports that he had died on holiday,” according to AFP.

A Mugabe spokesman said the president had gone for a review following an eye operation.

A 2008 diplomatic cable, leaked two years ago by WikiLeaks, quoted Mugabe’s close ally
and former central bank chief Gideon Gono telling former U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell that Mugabe had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Mujuru’s stint as acting head of state is unusually long, BusinessDayLive reports. She took over at the end of November and this will be her longest period acting president.

Social media have been abuzz about the state of Mugabe’s health since he returned home from Singapore last weekend.

Government officials said talk of Mugabe’s ill health was designed to cause “fear, alarm and despondency.”

Zimbabweans noticed the absence of official photos signalling Mugabe’s homecoming from the Far East. Instead state media used archive photos to report Mugabe’s return, BusinessDayLive reports.

The Herald newspaper ran a photo of him returning from an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2013. The president was last seen in public Dec. 29, as he left for the Far East, and before that on Dec. 22, at the unveiling of a statue honoring late Vice President Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo, according to BusinessDayLive.

Charamba said in a statement Mugabe would spend the remainder of his leave in
Zimbabwe but made no reference to health.

On Facebook, author and Harare resident Petina Gappah wrote, “OK. I am now getting
worried. I have foreign news agencies writing to ask me to prepare some ‘reflections on Mr Mugabe’ and they want this in the next two weeks. What is happening to my president? Where is he?” BusinessDayLive reports.

David Coltart — a former minister in the Zimbabwe coalition government that ended in
July — wrote on Facebook, “I think the most telling thing was the Herald’s attempt to dupe the public by printing last year’s photo, but against that we know there have been so many reports in the past that one should treat this with caution.

“I think we will know when he is in serious trouble, because I suspect that tension in the military will rise dramatically — something I have not sensed thus far.”

Political analyst Charles Mangongera played down the social media talk, according to BusinessDayLive. “I wouldn’t read too much into it…I think he is alive and well, although it must be worrying for him and his inner circle that so many people seem not to want him to be.”