HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba yesterday said the 89-year-old leader was completing his annual leave at his Borrowdale home, quashing speculation that he had either died or was very ill.
Since Mugabe arrived last Friday from vacation, speculation has been rife on social media that all was not well with the veteran leader.
Speaking over the phone yesterday, Charamba, said his boss remained on holiday until month-end so there was no need for the President to make a public appearance.
Mugabe’s uncharacteristic silence since he arrived has prompted a wave of messages on social media networks speculating about a turn for the worse in his health, or even his death.
Speculation about Mugabe’s well-being was fuelled after a State-controlled newspaper used a file picture in a report which announced his return from Singapore last week.
State TV also failed to produce footage on the president’s return, sparking frenzied speculation whether he had indeed returned home.
Mugabe turns 90 next month.
Charamba said Mugabe had not made a public appearance because he was still on his annual leave.
“I know for a fact that what has prompted your inquiry is the fact that there is a story on the (news) wires that if the president is alleged to have come back, why are they not using fresh images of him,” Charamba told the Daily News.
“It is not the responsibility of the presidential spokesperson to produce fresh images. That is a press function.”
He said it was the responsibility of media houses to dispatch reporters and photographers to cover the departure and arrival of the president.
But the independent media was not informed of his travel itinerary before he returned home, with Charamba only advising in December that Mugabe was due back in Harare mid-January.
“When the president left, I informed you and you took my word, when have we ever given you a picture to say he has left?” Charamba asked.
“Now the president comes back at around 6:30 pm, which we told you and now you want a picture? The president came back through the airport which is open to the public. He used the tarmac which is not a no-go area but newspapers did not come to take a picture.”
Asked how Mugabe, who makes frequent trips to the Far East ostensibly for cataract treatment was feeling, Charamba was non-committal.
“I do not know how he is. The president is still on leave and I am not obligated to go every morning to say Mr President, how is your limb,” he said, adding: “President Mugabe has the right to go on leave. It is a statutory right. It is a human right.”
Official sources said he had visited his rural home last weekend, and also visited his sister in hospital in Harare last week.
Mugabe traditionally takes his annual leave in January each year.