Voice of America (Washington, DC)

21 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Attributes His Long Life to God

Harare — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who turns 90 next month, says he does not know how he has lived this long. He spoke Tuesday at the funeral of his sister, his last living sibling.

The Zimbabwean leader has been the target of speculation about his health for years. He has been rumored to have cancer or other illnesses, which opponents whispered would mean the end of his more than 30-year rule.

As if he was quashing recent media reports that he had collapsed or died, however, Mugabe spoke for more than an hour Tuesday at the funeral of his sister Bridget, who died Sunday at the age of 79.

The president stood at the microphone for his entire eulogy, without a podium or anything else to lean on. He narrated a personal history stretching from 1919 when his parents wed, to today when all five of his siblings are gone.

He said, "It is not that she has passed on because she was not looked after. No. It is just illness. So do not ask why I have lived longer when I am older than her." He added, "I do not know how I have lived this long. It is all in God's hands."

The sister had spent years on life support at a government hospital before her death.

The 89-year-old Mugabe did not refer to rumors about his health during his address at the funeral home, about 100 kilometers west of Harare.

The Zimbabwean leader is on a month-long leave of office. He recently returned from Singapore, where he often goes when on leave. In the past his spokesman has said Mugabe goes to Singapore for eye treatment.

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