Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday that political rival President Robert Mugabe should resign because of his ailing health and advanced age. The 87-year old leader is believed to be terminally ill with prostate canceri.
AFP - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should consider resigning because of his age and health, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Wednesday, fueling speculation on the veteran strongman's future ahead of elections.
"The question of age is catching up, the question of health is catching up," Tsvangirai, Mugabe's political rival, told a news conference.
"I am sure that advisably he would be in a position for the sake of the country, for the sake of his legacy, for the sake of his children to consider stepping down."
The comments were the clearest public indication yet that Mugabe's health is failing, amid reports that the liberation leader is suffering from prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of his body.
Mugabe returned Sunday from a private visit to Singapore -- the latest in what has become an almost monthly journey.
The president, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, has brushed off speculation about his health.
"As you can see, this Mugabe is fit," he told state media upon his return Sunday.
A leaked US diplomatic cable on the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks said that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono told then US ambassador James McGee in 2008 that Mugabe has prostate cancer "that will cause his death in three to five years."
Gono has denied the WikiLeaks report, and Tsvangirai declined to discuss what ailment afflicted Mugabe.
"He is not certainly suffering from malaria," Tsvangirai said, because the disease common in Zimbabwe can be treated "at the nearest hospital".
Tsvangirai also defended the expense of shuttling Mugabe to Asia for health care.
"The responsibility of the state is to look after its leaders. If the president is sick he should be attended to," Tsvangirai said.
The premier spoke one day after a raid on his party offices Tuesday, when a riot erupted in downtown Harare after police tried to arrest street vendors selling pirated CDs.
Six people were arrested as police beat people on the street, fired teargas and blocked off the offices of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
"The police have exposed themselves to be partisan, to be disrespectful of my office and me personally," Tsvangirai said.
"What we are faced with here is a situation in which the police are acting as the law unto themselves. The president assured me that we would deal with this matter."
"The violence we are witnessing is state-sponsored and state-driven. It is being championed by a few fascist leaders who want to reverse the little progress we have made," he said.
Tsvangirai won the first-round presidential vote in 2008, sparking a wave of attacks that killed more than 200 of his supporters. He pulled out of the run-off against Mugabe to end the violence.
Under intense regional pressure, the two formed a unity government to oversee the drafting of a new constitution and guide the country toward new elections -- a process running more than a year behind schedule.
Mugabe has already been endorsed as ZANU-PF's candidate, but his party is roiled by divisions between a more moderate faction led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and hardliners led by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mujuru's husband, former army chief Solomon Mujuru, was killed in a fire in his farmhouse outside Harare in August. The results of an inquest into his death have yet to be made public, adding to the tensions in the party.
Date created : 2011-11-02