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Senior Zimbabwe Sources Say VP Msika Dead But Reports Unconfirmed

Rumors swept the Zimbabwean capital of Harare on Tuesday that First Vice President Joseph Msipa, 85, had died following a stroke earlier this year, and senior government officials offered unofficial confirmation of his death, but no official announcement was forthcoming.

A state broadcasting source said official notification of the death had been received - but with instructions to embargo or withhold the news until Wednesday programs.

Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said Msika was "in a bad state but he is not dead.”

ZANU-PF Deputy Spokesman Ephraim Masawi told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare is known for rumor-mongering and that talk of Msika’s death was misinformed though he had not been well for some months.

But high-level sources including in President Robert Mugabe's office confirmed Msika had died.

Government sources said Msika, who had served as vice president since December 1999 after the death of liberation leader Joshua Nkomo, head of the Zimbabwe African People's Union which was merged with Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union in 1987.

Msika, who suffered a stroke some months ago and underwent an operation in South Africa, had been in and out of the hospital, sources said. He was reported to have asked to step down, but acceded to Mr. Mugabe's request that he stay on to promote stability.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...