Mugabe health fears revive succession headache
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe returned home from Singapore on Thursday, after a trip that fuelled rumours the 88-year-old was seriously ill, intensifying concerns about who would succeed him.
Thursday 19 April 2012, 10:12AM
Mugabe has made frequent visits to Singapore in recent years, amid reports that the veteran leader is suffering from prostate cancer that has already spread throughout his body.
He appeared healthy as he walked off his charter plane in Harare accompanied by his wife Grace, joking with Vice President Joice Mujuru and military chiefs who welcomed him home.
“The man is fit as a fiddle,” Information Minister Webster Shamu told reporters. “Why do we wish somebody bad, why do we spread rumours, why do we lie about our head of state?”
Mugabe and other top officials have repeatedly denied the cancer reports, which gained widespread currency following a leaked 2008 US diplomatic cable in which Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono confirmed the health story to the then US ambassador.
The latest health scare was sparked by a single report on a news website run by Zimbabwean exiles that said the leader of the ZANU-PF party was fighting for his life in a Singapore hospital.
Officially, the government says he travelled to the city-state to arrange post-graduate studies for his daughter Bona.
The speed that the story spread around the globe underscored the deep-seated concerns about what would happen in the event of the sudden death of the man who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
With two vice presidents and a vague succession law, political analyst Derek Matyszak said the failure by Mugabe to appoint a successor was a recipe for chaos.
“The ambiguity of the law to be followed upon Mugabe’s sudden death... has the potential to turn the merely messy into the thoroughly chaotic as each contender endeavours to apply an interpretation of the law which is most advantageous to him or her,” Matyszak said.
“The ZANU-PF constitution also contains no clear provisions as to what happens on the demise of its president,” he wrote in the private Daily News.