Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turned 88 Tuesday, declaring that he is in good health despite credible reports he is under treatment for cancer, and would stay in power despite succession concerns in his party and wider concerns about his lock on power.
Mr. Mugabe said in an interview with state television aired late Monday that he was healthy and fit. He did not address media reports that he has been under treatment for prostate cancer in Singapore, to which he has traveled often in the past year or so.
The veteran politician credited a daily routine of work out and a balanced diet for his 'good health.' "Every morning, I have my one hour and ensure I exercise," Mugabe said. "That’s the way we grow but some live longer than others.
"So God looks after us but there is a portion we must play. You must eat well, you take some vegetables, don’t over-eat beef, it’s dangerous, eventually you develop gout."
Mr. Mugabe also counseled youth in particular to protect themselves against HIV, desist from smoking and exhibit moderation in drinking alcohol. Mugabe is a teetotaler.
"My advice is don’t drink. If you want to drink, don’t drink too much but I would say don’t drink at all, and don’t smoke at all. When you smoke, the nicotine goes to your lungs; it’s a sure case that your lungs are inhaling,” he said.
“Look after yourself. Girlfriends, when you are young you want two or three girlfriends, but you finally make a choice. Little houses, some little houses are dangerous these days. There is HIV, I have seen youngsters in the extended families just going one after another. They left orphans, we are having to look after them.”
Birthday festivities for Mr. Mugabe are to be held this year in eastern Manicaland province and stand to be the most expensive such celebrations to date at an estimated cost of $1 million, with taxpayers footing part of the bill.
Guests will be taken to Chimoi in Mozambique and other tourist resorts such as Bridal Veil Falls in Chimanimani, Mtarazi Falls in Honde Valley and Ziwa Ruins.
They will sit down to fine meals and listen to a music gala featuring top local artists led by Sungura icon Alick Macheso, a beauty pageant in the honor of the president and a soccer tournament dubbed the "Bob 88 Super Cup."
Spokesman Rugare Gumbo of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party defended the spending.
"People have their own opinion, their own perception, their own approach to some of these issues; but as far as we are concerned whatever money has been raised whether it's a million, less or more, it's being spent on a worthy cause," he said.
But political analyst Pedzisayi said Mr. Mugabe must not spend so much when the nation and its people are suffering. He said Mr. Mugabe has outlived his productivity in office.
"It's glaring that the president is old, he needs rest, he does not need to run political affairs," Ruhanya said. "He doesn't need to continue running administrative affairs of the state, and given his age, it is clear that when it comes to elections, he will thoroughly lose. He is unelectable."
National Youth Development Trust Director Liberty Bhebhe said that given Mugabe’s advanced age, he is no longer fit for office.