Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 87, has dismissed reports his health is failing, saying he is in good shape and exercises regularly to keep fit, adding in an interview with a Zimbabwean-Namibian state media publication that he hopes to live to 100.
President Mugabe has traveled to Singapore five times since December sparking rumors that he suffers from a serious ailment. Reports said he is under treatment for prostate cancer. But a spokesman said he only underwent surgery for an eye cataract.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party this week reported in its newsletter ANC Today that aides to President Jacob Zuma facilitating talks between the governing parties in Harare are worried about the consequences if Mr. Mugabe should die or step down before the country has put a new constitution and reforms in place.
Mr. Mugabe told the Southern Times newspaper, a joint venture by the Zimbabwean and Namibian state media, that regular physical exercise helps him stay in good health. He said the only medical treatment he has had recently was for an eye cataract.
“I fall sick when i don’t exercise," Mr. Mugabe was quoted as saying. "I’m not old, I am 87, but my body says the counting doesn’t end at 87, at least you must get to 100.”
He confirmed reports his wife Grace was unwell, saying she has been treated in China for a dislocated hip. Mugabe revealed that the Zimbabwean first lady, 42 years his junior, is taking a degree in Chinese.
Commenting on prospects for elections, Mr. Mugabe insisted that if a new constitution is adopted this year, that will clear the way for a ballot by year's end.
Spokesman Methuseli Moyo of the revived Zimbabwe African People's Union or ZAPU party told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that whether Mr. Mugabe is in good health or bad, his age renders him unfit for high public office.
The question of Mugabe's succession is so sensitive that officials in his ZANU-PF party dare not broach it. ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said this week the issue will only be opened for debate when Mr. Mugabe is no longer present to lead the party.
For insights into the intertwined issues of presidential health and succession, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to Harare political analysts Psychology Maziwisa and Charles Mangongera who called the president’s latest statements a public relations gambit, agreeing that worries about Mr. Mugabe's succession will continue.