Cape Town – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba has reportedly quashed media speculation that the veteran leader could be dead or very ill amid his uncharacteristic silence since his arrival home from Singapore last week.
According to Daily News, Charamba said his boss, who turns 90 next month, remained on holiday until end of January and would therefore not make any public appearance.
Speculation about Mugabe’s well-being has been rife on social media with some suggesting he was dead.
The internet rumour mill was fuelled after state owned media, Herald, used a file picture in a report which announced his return from Singapore.
State TV also failed to produce footage on the president’s return, sparking frenzied speculation whether he had indeed returned home.
Charamba maintained that Mugabe had not made a public appearance because he was still on his annual leave.
Mugabe’s health has always been kept a closely guarded secret. In all his 33 years in power, most Zimbabweans can hardly pinpoint a time when he has ever been taken ill. Only after several trips to Singapore a few years ago did the state reveal that he had gone for treatment but only for an eye cataract.
A diplomatic cable from 2008, leaked two years ago by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, quoted Mugabe's close ally and former central bank chief Gideon Gono as telling former US ambassador Christopher Dell that Mugabe had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The Zimbabwe Mail reported recently that the local media fraternity was too scared to write about Mugabe’s illness “even though his infirmity is now common knowledge among journalists”.