HARARE – Amid concerns over whether the leading contenders in next year’s presidential race can handle a gruelling poll campaign, President Robert Mugabe has opened up on his health, which for a long time, has been kept a closely-guarded secret.
The 93-year-old Zanu PF leader, who usually receives medical attention in foreign lands, told party supporters at his fifth youth interface rally held in Chinhoyi yesterday, that even surgeons are surprised by his age-defying fitness.
“There is the issue that the president is going. I am not going.
“The president is dying; I am not dying and I thank God for living long. I will have an ailment here and there; I go to the doctors like everybody else, but my organs — my heart, my liver, my bones — are still very strong and doctors were recently surprised saying my bones are now stronger,” said Mugabe, to wild applause from multitudes of his supporters.
“For years, I have always exercised my body — from the days when I was in prison to this day — so that it can be strong. I am a Christian, and so I thank God for continuously giving me life,” he added.
Of late, there has been concern over Mugabe and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s health.
Mugabe, who will turn 94 in February next year, has been to Singapore three times this year for “routine medical check-ups”.
There are even indications that next year’s polls could be held much earlier than the traditional July timing in order to shorten the campaign period and lessen its demands on Mugabe’s health.
Tsvangirai, who was diagnosed with cancer of the colon in 2015, has also been to South Africa — the continent’s most advanced economy — on several occasions where he is receiving treatment.
The MDC leader recently allayed fears over his health.
While Mugabe’s health has previously been kept a secret, he was in top form yesterday, declaring he will not be leaving office anytime soon, citing factionalism and disunity among Zanu PF cadres as one of the reasons he has to stay longer.
His spokesperson, George Charamba, recently defended his boss’ newly-found habit of closing his eyes in public, saying the president cannot stand lights.
But with his frailty under the spotlight, as he often travels to Singapore for medical attention — speculation is rife that the former guerrilla war leader cannot keep up with his busy schedule and must therefore retire.
As a result, factions have emerged in Zanu PF — all working towards a post-Mugabe era.
The existence of factions has, however, weakened the party, diminishing its prospects of retaining power at the next polls.
Yesterday, Mugabe said because of his long stay at the helm, he was studying his underlings and was greatly disappointed by their conduct.
“Those in government should recognise that the principle that made us succeed was one of unity. Yes these aspects of discipline are there but above all there is unity, unity means we are together in the way we operate in our positions, we are together in mind also means we speak in one voice,” he said.
“We should avoid speaking against each other, kunyeyana, ku organizirana (rumour mongering and scheming against each other). I told (Zanu PF national youths chairperson Kudzanai) Chipanga that you will certainly be getting some leaders asking you to push their agendas, they will be saying support us against this one. Don’t listen to them. Once you listen to one party you are causing division and you will see the youth league divided. It gets divided in the provinces and it becomes split from top to bottom. We have avoided that as the ruling party.
“There are factions of course, but we don’t allow those factions to prosper at the expense of the party. We say stop them. There are some who are ambitious. I accept that but I also think and recognise that having led the party for so long and having brought unity, a new man will not command fear among the opposition like the MDC led by Tsvangirai. They will say there is a new man who will not have received the same acceptance as I have received so I want to see whether the situation is ripe. I want to see whether the people are united and I see people are split along tribal lines with some saying hatidi maZezuru (we loathe the Zezurus),” said Mugabe.
This comes as his wife Grace on Thursday last week called on Mugabe to anoint a successor so as to narrow differences in the ruling party that have been caused by factionalism.
Zanu PF is presently divided along two factions namely Generation 40, which claims to be loyal to Mugabe, and the Team Lacoste faction which is pushing for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to ascend to the throne.
Mnangagwa, who also attended yesterday’s interface rallies, denies leading any faction.
In the past, he has also distanced himself from war veterans and expelled Zanu PF youths who are publicly bidding for him.
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