Zimbabwe: Vice president’s death sparks questions on Mugabe’s age

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The national radio of Zimbabwe has announced the death of Vice President Joseph Msika. Joseph Msika, 86, served as vice President from 1999 to 2009 after succeeding the late Joshua Nkomo, the founder of ZAPU, which merged with Robert Mugabe’s Zanu to become Zanu-PF in 1987, bringing the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces to an end. According to the local press, Robert Mugabe personally broke the news to Zanu-PF party officials.

On Tuesday evening Mugabe visited Msika at West End Hospital in Harare where he was in a critical condition on a life support system. The cause of death has not yet been established.

Earlier Tuesday, Minister of youth, Saviour Kasukuwere had said that Msika was “in a bad state but he is not dead.” According to the Voice Of America, ZANU-PF Deputy Spokesman Ephraim Masawi told one of their reporters that “Harare is known for rumor-mongering and that talk of Msika’s death was misinformed though he had not been well for some months.”

But according to sources from the state press, an official notification of the death had been received on Tuesday, August 4, with instructions to withhold the news until later Wednesday.

The Late Joseph Msika, populary known as Bruno was rarely seen in public this year after he suffered a second stroke and was airlifted to South Africa for treatment. In June, Msika was admitted to St Anne’s Hospital in Harare twice within a fortnight to correct complications arising from the operation he had in South Africa.

Sources say, the Vice President had been often admitted to health institutions in recent months. President Robert Mugabe is reported to have insisted he remained in office, although he was clearly not fit to work. He shared the vice presidency with Joice Mujuru, currently rumoured as a Zanu-PF presidential aspirant.

Mugabe’s age questioned

Analysts believe that Joseph Msika who was only three months older than Robert Mugabe was prevented from stepping down as Vice President as it would have questioned the President’s age and capacity to run the country effectively. His death could also spark infighting with senior Zanu Pf members in bid to take over his post.

Msika did not run in the March 2005 parliamentary elections, but Mugabe appointed him to one of the thirty unelected seats in Parliament. He also did not stand for election in the March 2008 parliamentary election. Mugabe, however, appointed him to the Senate in August 2008 and then swore him in as Vice President on 13 October 2008, together with Mrs. Mujuru.

A veteran politician Msika was arrested in 1964 and held in detention until 1975. Msika was a member of the ZAPU delegation to the Lancaster House Conference that negotiated independence for Zimbabwe in 1980.

Mugabe is expected to officially inform the nation on the passing on of Vice President Msika.

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