JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is well and an online rumor that the 91-year-old leader is seriously ill is false, a state-run newspaper in Zimbabwe reported Thursday, citing a government official.
The Herald quoted presidential spokesman George Charamba as saying the allegation in the ZimEye website was designed to make money by attracting more readers to the site.
The allegation was made in a letter to the editor that the website later attributed to a former army captain in Zimbabwe.
False rumors that Mugabe is dead usually circulate every January when the leader is on annual leave, the Herald quoted Charamba as saying.
"You can doubt that there can be a New Year, but you cannot doubt that there will be a story on the president's alleged death every January," Charamba said.
Zimbabwe's ruling party announced this week that it has begun organizing a birthday bash for Mugabe, who turns 92 next month. Such celebrations are usually held under the banner of the 21st February Movement, a youth branch of the ZANU-PF party named after the date of Mugabe's birthday.
The president's office has said Mugabe is on a holiday in the Far East, without specifying which country the president is visiting with his family.
Mugabe, one of Africa's longest serving rulers, has been in power since 1980, when white-minority rule ended in Zimbabwe.
Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris