Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe’s fiercest rival for the past 18 years, has dismissed rumors that he has only six months to live as “fake news” peddled by his political rivals ahead of the 2018 elections.
Tsvangirai is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer.
Rumors have been circulating on online line publications and social media that his medical team had given him a few months to live.
But in an exclusive interview with VOA’s Studio 7, Tsvangirai said he is responding well to treatment and is surprised by those spreading rumors that he is bed-ridden and in a vegetative state.
“I am feeling fine, I am responding well to treatment,” Tsvangirai said. He added; “This misrepresentation (that he has months to live) is meant to create a certain impression that Tsvangirai is not able to go to the next election."
Tsvangirai disclosed his diagnosis in 2016 and urged all political leaders to do the same.
“As a leader and a public figure, I have taken a decision to make public my condition,” Tsvangirai said, adding that he was receiving chemotherapy treatment in neighboring South Africa.
“It is my firm belief that the health of national leaders, including politicians, should not be a subject of national speculation and uncertainty.”
Tsvangirai, a veteran trade unionist who lost the 2013 presidential vote against Mr. Mugabe, has led the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since 1999.
However, the party has been weakened by splits over how to confront Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
Both Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe have been frequently flying outside the country for medical check-up.
President Mugabe has travelled to Singapore three times this year for treatment. Public hospitals in Zimbabwe often suffer from chronic shortages of drugs and staff as the economy has struggled to rebound following years of mismanagement.