The personal banker to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe told a former US ambassador that the ageing president had prostate cancer that would kill him by 2013, leaked US embassy cables show.
Central bank chief Gideon Gono made the claims in remarks to James McGee in June 2008 – when Zimbabwe was mired in election violence following Mugabe’s loss to then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of polls in March.
The allegations will embarrass the ZANU-PF side of Zimbabwe’s fragile power-sharing administration, signed up to by Mugabe and Tsvangirai in September 2008.
Despite frequent speculation fuelled by Mugabe’s trips to Asia, top ZANU-PF officials refuse to admit Mugabe, 87, has a health problem.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba says the five trips made this year by Zimbabwe’s first couple have been necessitated by a cataract operation Mugabe had in January and by back injuries wife Grace sustained falling in the couple’s Harare mansion.
“President Robert Mugabe has prostate cancer that has metastasised and, according to doctors, will cause his death in three to five years,” according to WikiLeaks documents made available in Harare on Sunday.
In an unexpected move, Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail – which is closely controlled by ZANU-PF – also reported on the leaked cable in an apparent sign of deepening rifts within the former guerrilla party as rival factions battle for control.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.
Gono has denied ever making the statements, online reports from Zimbabwe say.