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03HARARE2160 2003-10-30 14:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Harare
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1. (C) Reports that President Mugabe suffered a stroke or
other debilitating illness within the past week appear to be
unfounded. Reliable Embassy contacts confirmed that he had
been sighted on numerous occasions during the past few days,
including at a politburo meeting yesterday and at the
construction site for his new mansion in suburban Harare. In
addition, local TV footage October 29 showed him in apparent
good health at the 14th General Assembly and Scientific
Symposium of the International Council on Monuments and Sites
in Victoria Falls, where he reportedly that day addressed
delegates from 38 countries.

2. (C) One well-connected contact reported that Mugabe
suffered some temporary "health episode" while attending his
nephew's wedding in Zvimba (Mugabe's hometown) on October 25
but was treated by his doctor with no interruption to his
work schedule. The source indicated that the episode was not
serious or life-threatening; his account is uncorroborated.
In any event, the weight of the evidence before us suggests
that Mugabe continues to exercise the powers of his office as
fully as one might expect of a relatively healthy man his

3. (C) COMMENT: Given his 79 years and perhaps reflecting
wishful thinking among many here, rumors of Mugabe's ill
health are frequent and not surprising. Were Mugabe to be
seriously ill, the government quite possibly would
intentionally conceal the fact, just as it attempted to hide
the recent lengthy illness of the late Vice President
Muzenda. On occasion Mugabe may go weeks without a public
appearance, making reports of incapacity further difficult to
verify. Some of the wilder turns of the rumor mill this time
-- i.e., security forces barricading the city to prepare for
a violent power struggle -- underscore yet again the
deleterious effects of losing the country's only independent
daily newspaper. We appreciate Pretoria's timely and useful
coverage of these confusing reports as they emerged.