The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, has prostate cancer which has spread to other organs, according to U.S. diplomatic cables unearthed by Wikileaks.
The cable, dated June 2008 and written by the former U.S. ambassador James McGee in the capital city of Harare, also claims that Zimbabwe’s central bank governor Gideon Gono said Mugabe’s doctors have recommended he step down from power.
According to the cable, Gono said that the 87-year-old Mugabe’s cancer had metastasized and, according to doctors, will cause his death in three to five years, suggesting the dictator would die by the year 2013.
A diplomatic cable from 2006 also indicated that Mugabe’s wife, Grace, told Gono that her husband is “out of it about 75 percent of the time.” Allegedly, she told Gono that she wanted Mugabe to retire from the stress of politics.
The U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe at that time, Christopher Dell, wrote of a meeting he had with Gono: “The Governor confided that Mugabe appeared to be deteriorating mentally and losing his capacity to balance factional interests.”
According to NewZimbabwe.com, in another cable, the president of Botswana Ian Khama told U.S. officials that Mugabe had slept through a crucial meeting which was discussing the formation of the country’s coalition government.
“President Khama told the U.S. Chiefs of Mission that Mugabe started dozing off as the hours passed, head nodding and eyes half-closed. But according to Khama, Mugabe was always able to respond at the right moments, which Khama characterized as having ‘mastered the art of sleeping with one ear open’,” one cable said.
However, Gono, a close Mugabe ally, has dismissed the cable as fiction and said he does not have the power to shorten or elongate people's lives, according to Zimbabwe's privately owned Daily News newspaper
He also told New Zimbabwe.com: “These claims are the rogue ambassadors’ opinions, the product of their fictional minds or whatever kind of grass they were smoking. By attempting to quote me on awkward topics, these guys were trying to authenticate their… preconceived notions about a particular matter to add credibility to their imaginations.”
Mugabe himself has denied rumors that he has cancer and that he suffered a stroke.
Meanwhile, Mugabe recently declared a new election may be held next year, although neither his ruling Zanu-PF party nor Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party have agreed on a specific date.