Zimbabwe VP dies

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iol news pic John Nkomo AP File image - Zimbabwean Priminster, Morgan Tsvangirai, with Zimbabwe's second vice President John Nkomo at State House in Harare. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Harare - Zimbabwean vice-president John Nkomo has died after a long battle with cancer, President Robert Mugabe said on Thursday.

Nkomo, 78, was said to have died at Saint Anne's hospital in Harare.

“We have lost our vice-president John Landa Nkomo, he was suffering for a long time with cancer,” said Mugabe

“We have lost a real revolutionary, a fighter of freedom, a friend of the people, he will be dearly missed by all of us.”

Nkomo was appointed to one of the country's two vice-presidencies under Mugabe in late 2009.

Responsible for overseeing financial, economic and environmental policy he was seen as loyal to Mugabe.

He “can be counted on to do Mugabe's bidding,” a leaked US diplomatic cable dating from 2009 said.

His Ndebele roots made him useful in checking the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in Matabeleland, a western region where the MDC enjoys strong support.

While he was sometimes mooted as a successor to Mugabe, few believe he had a real shot at taking the top post.

His appointment was the culmination of a political journey that began in the early 1960s, when he joined the Zimbabwe African People's Union, a pro independence movement, which later became part of Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

The US embassy in Harare expressed its condolences, saying he played “an important role in shaping the course of Zimbabwean history.”

“Whether as a teacher, a politician, an advocate for Zimbabwe's independence, or as a public servant, Vice President Nkomo was a patriot who dedicated his life to Zimbabwe's sovereignty and prosperity,” the embassy said in a statement. - Sapa-AFP

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