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Zimbabwean officials yesterday dismissed reports that President Robert Mugabe was seriously ill in Singapore, saying he was well and on holiday there with his family, and was expected to return home this week.
Mugabe is one of Africa’s longest serving leaders and has ruled the country since 1980.
The 88-year-old president has been the subject of several health scares in recent years, with some reports saying he has prostate cancer, but in February interviews with state media he laughed off suggestions that he was seriously ill.
Two senior officials from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party yesterday angrily denied reports by some international media that he was undergoing intensive treatment in a Singapore hospital and was fighting for his life.
“The president is well and away on a private holiday to help his daughter prepare for post-graduate studies, but we are expecting him home this week,” said one of the two officials, who declined to be named.
Asked whether the president had also used his 10-day visit to Singapore for a medical check-up, one of the officials said: “We are not going to be engaged over rumours, speculation and wishful thinking.”
Mugabe has made frequent visits to Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
A terse Zimbabwean government statement saying a weekly cabinet meeting set for yesterday had been postponed to tomorrow had fed the rash of media speculation about the president’s health. Mugabe usually chairs cabinet meetings.
The officials declined to give details about the exact timing of Mugabe’s return, citing security reasons, but one said the president was expected to chair the rescheduled cabinet session tomorrow.
Zimbabwe’s capital Harare was quiet, with government offices and businesses re-opening after the Easter Holiday.
Mugabe, who celebrated his 88th birthday on February 21, was endorsed by his party as its presidential candidate for a general election he wants to be held before the end of this year despite opposition from his major political rivals.
Analysts say Mugabe will face a tough challenge convincing voters to extend his 32-year rule after a devastating economic crisis many people blame on Zanu-PF rule.