Since Tuesday, media reports and online rumors have been spreading that Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe suffered a heart attack. The rumors originated from a letter the Zimbabwean newspaper ZimEye received from an official in the country’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) which claimed the 91-year-old head of state had suffered a heart attack while on holiday.
Rumors regarding Robert Mugabe’s deteriorating health are hardly new. Last year, the aging President was recorded falling down a flight of stairs as he attempted to exit a plane at Harare Airport.
During last Nigerian Presidential inauguration of President Buhari, SaharaTV’s Adeola Fayehun ambushed Robert Mugabe and inquired about the status of his health. The Zimbabwean President declined to answer.
The letter’s publication caused several local and international news agencies to reach out to the Zimbabwean government for comment. In response to a text message from a Reuters reporter, government spokesman George Charamba stated that any comment on Mr. Mugabe’s health was “unnecessary”.
According to the Zimbabwean media, Mr. Mugabe is fond of refuting questions about his failing health by announcing himself to be “fit as a fiddle.”
Mr. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, since 1980 after he and the ruling party ZANU-PF wrested control of the nation from the white minority.
Since 1980, the country has been hit by several financial crises which led to one of the worst incidences of hyperinflation in world history. The aging President has also been accused of gross human rights abuses, including the massacre of as many as 30,000 Matabele in the mid-1980’s.
His rule has seen the death, imprisonment, and exile of numerous political dissenters. Given his advanced age, many are curious as to who he will choose as his successor. Some have speculated that his wife, Grace Mugabe, may be a leading contender to replace Mr. Mugabe after his retirement or death.