May 20, 2011

ZIMBABWE: I am not old, and I am not ill, declares Mugabe

CAPE TOWN, South Africa / The Independent On Line / Africa / May 20, 2011

Zimbabwe's 87-year-old president President Mugabe has scoffed
at speculation over his health as "misplaced" and said
he and his wife are fitness enthusiasts.  Photo: Reuters

Zimbabwe's 87-year-old president scoffed at speculation over his health as “misplaced” and said Thursday he and his wife are fitness enthusiasts.

President Robert Mugabe also dismissed recent reports that his wife Grace, his former secretary who is half his age, was also ill. He told state media they were both in “sound health.”

In excerpts of an interview published Thursday by the state Herald newspaper, he said he exercised regularly and recently only had an eye cataract operation in Singapore. His wife was undergoing physiotherapy in China for a dislocated hip which may have been made worse by exercise, he said.

South Africa's ruling party reported Tuesday that health problems facing Mugabe could jeopardize efforts to resolve the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is seen to be increasingly frail and at a recent regional summit he was transported around the convention center in an electric golf cart.

Visitors to his offices have also reported him suffering from fatigue.

Interviewed also by Southern Times, a regional weekly that is under the Herald stable and distributed by loyalists, Mugabe said his wife was in China studying for a degree in language and cultural studies. He said doctors there told her to stop fitness exercises.

“It is not an ailment. It is a physical dislocation,” he said in excerpts of the interview Thursday. The full version is expected to be published Friday.

He told the newspaper he did not use gym equipment but used common exercises he began in a colonial-era jail cell.

“I fall sick if I don't exercise. For now I am as good as my age says I must be,” he said, adding that he also takes a calcium supplement to help strengthen his bones.

“I am not old. I am 87 but my body says the counting doesn't end at 87, at least you must get to 100,” he told the newspaper.

Mugabe's office has denied he is suffering from prostate cancer treated in Singapore and suggested his five trips there since December were to meet with his wife and daughter Bona, 21, who is studying in Hong Kong.

Mugabe is scheduled to attend a regional summit Friday in the Namibian capital of Windhoek but discussions on Zimbabwe have been postponed, possibly to June 11 and 12 on the sidelines of an African economic summit in South Africa.

South African President Jacob Zuma, the region's chief mediator on Zimbabwe, is not expected in Windhoek. At the last regional summit in Zambia in March, Mugabe and his party received a stern rebuke over the slow pace of reforms in Zimbabwe and continuing political violence.

Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, has repeatedly said despite his age, he is fit to govern. He has called for elections this year, but regional mediators say that would be too early for free and fair polling.


WINDHOEK, Namibia / The Southern Times / May 19, 2011

Q: There has been speculation about your health in recent months.

A: The body says what it says it is. But I have had a cataract removed. I continue to have checks every six months. The doctors say that I am okay and some are surprised with my bone structure. They say they are the bones of someone who is 40. I suppose it's the exercise… I also take calcium everyday. At this age you must take calcium and I continue to exercise. I fall sick if I don't exercise. You can see it when I don't, you will say he is down today. For now (I feel) as good as my age says I must be. My age says I am not yet old at 87. My body is saying the counting doesn't end at 87 – at least you must get to 100. How old do you want to get? (answer: 120). Okay, let's see you then. Will wait and see you then.

Q: Your friend and comrade-in-arms, Cde Nujoma, celebrated his 82nd birthday recently…

A: Ah yes, Sam. I will take him a gift. 82, he is still my youth (laughing). Sam, yes. He's still okay. Sam, Sam. He doesn't get sick Sam, does he? Rarely. But he has done one thing I thought he wouldn't have time for – to read for a degree in Geology. And he has a son also who is a geologist. I will congratulate him. Those are our best friends.

© 2009 Southern Times Africa