John Nkomo, Zimbabwean Vice-President is dead. He died today after treatment for cancer in South Africa as revealed by a Zimbabwean Political Source. Zimbabwe has lost a potential successor to Robert Mugabe who is ageing. John Nkomo’s death will rekindle debate over 88 year old Mugabe’s health issues and open up a succession battle as the country’s shaky coalition government edges towards a general election due this year.
In December Mugabe vowed to fight like a “wounded beast” to retain power amid grumbling within his party that he should hand over the reins to a younger leader.
He is Africa’s oldest head of state and has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980 but has denied reports he has been receiving treatment for prostate cancer in Singapore over the last two years.
Official media was silent on Nkomo’s death but the United States embassy released a statement offering its condolences at the passing of “a patriot who dedicated his life to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and prosperity.”
Mugabe and ZANU-PF are struggling to shore up support among young voters, who care more about the economy than the party’s role in leading the 1970s liberation struggle against white-minority rule.