Zimbabwe officials deny reports Robert Mugabe is on 'deathbed'
Officials close to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe have denied reports that he has fallen seriously ill during a visit to Singapore.
Local newspaper the Zimbabwe Mail reported that the 88 year-old was on his "deathbed", but those close to the president insisted he was "energetic and alert" and simply enjoying an Easter holiday with his family.
Mr Mugabe left Zimbabwe for the southeast Asian city state on March 31 on the pretext of helping his daughter Bona register for a postgraduate degree.
On Monday it was announced that his expected return had been delayed until later in this week, resulting in the postponement of a second cabinet meeting.
The extended stay, following previous trips last year where he is thought to have seen medics, has renewed rumours that he is seriously ill.
The Zimbabwe Mail cited an unnamed source within Zanu PF as saying that he was "undergoing intensive treatment in Singapore". The paper also claimed that some members of his family had flown by private chartered jet from Harare on Saturday evening to be with him.
Information Minister Webster Shamu dismissed the reports as "a lot of hogwash", while another government source said he would be back in Zimbabwe by Wednesday. "This is not the first time we have heard these rumours. If anything like that had happened, we would have issued a statement," Mr Shamu said.
A government source who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP that Mr Mugabe was on a "private visit" to Singapore. "He is not in and was not taken to any hospital," the source added. "He is well and should be back later today or tomorrow which is why cabinet was pushed to Thursday. The story from the Zimbabwe Mail is a complete fabrication."
Brig General Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi, principal director in the Presidential Affairs Ministry, said that as far as he knew, the president was well.
"There's nothing wrong with him," he said. "We would know if there was."
He said that the last time he saw the president, around 10 days ago at a meeting of the politburo, he was "very energetic and alert".
"If something has happened to him, it's something that's very sudden, not progressive at all as last time I saw him he was perfectly well," he added.
Misheck Sibanda, the chief secretary to the Cabinet who announced the postponement of Tuesday's meeting until Thursday when the president is expected to be back in Harare, told news website newzimbabwe.com that he was simply enjoying an Easter break.
"The President is on his Easter holidays, like everyone else," he said. "He returns to his post this week, at the same time as those who are asking about his whereabouts from their holiday hideouts."
Rumours about Mr Mugabe's ill health are frequent and have increased since WikiLeaks released a US diplomatic cable last year which cited a close friend of Mr Mugabe saying he had prostate cancer which could bring about his death in "three to five years".
Fuel was also added by the more than eight trips the former independence fighter, who has run Zimbabwe since 1980, made to the Far East, reportedly for medical treatment, last year.
Mr Mugabe himself joked about the constant rumours about his health in an interview to mark his 88th birthday in February.
"The day will come when I will become sick. As of now I am fit as a fiddle," he said. "I have died many times. That's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once. I don't know how many times I will die and resurrect."