ZIMBABWE’S Vice President Joseph Msika died early Tuesday aged 86.
There was no official confirmation but several government sources told New Zimbabwe.com he died at Harare’s West End Clinic -- the culmination of a long struggle with various ailments, including a stroke suffered in June.
Msika disappeared from public life for much of the year, prompting President Robert Mugabe to tell his Zanu PF party’s central committee in June that he was “unwell”.
A former senior figure in the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and one of the founders of the liberation movement against white minority rule, Msika became Vice President in December 1999, succeeding the late Joshua Nkomo.
Msika joined Mugabe’s Zanu PF along with Nkomo following the signing of a Unity Accord in 1987. When Nkomo died, Msika, as the second in command from the former ZAPU, was a shoe-in to succeed him.
A frank talker, this was sometimes seen as a disadvantage for him.
In 2000, he was condemned for calling opposition supporters “imigodoyi” (useless dogs).
In 2006, he courted controversy when he accused Zanu PF leaders of misrepresenting Zimbabwe’s recent history – particularly the 1970s bush war for independence.
Msika told a rally: "The true history of the liberation struggle should be told. I feel I have a duty to correct this blatant lie ... The struggle to liberate Zimbabwe started in Bulawayo at Stanley Hall, when we formed the African Youth Congress.
"At one of the meetings of the youth congress which I chaired, we decided to invite people from Mashonaland to join us in the struggle. If there is anyone who doubts this, they should come forward and challenge me one-on-one.”
His health problems began in 2005 when he suddenly collapsed at his home, apparently having suffered a stroke.
He would be in and out of hospital until his death on Tuesday.
Msika has three surviving children -- Tambudzai, Shelton and Taguma -- and leaves behind his wife, Maria.