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Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 15:13 UK

Old Mugabe ally dies in Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe (left) and Joseph Msika (right)
Joseph Msika (right) served in Robert Mugabe's government for two decades

Zimbabwean Vice-President Joseph Msika, a close ally of President Robert Mugabe, has died aged 85.

He represented the former liberation movement Zapu, which merged with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu party in 1987, seven years after independence.

The veteran politician first fell ill in 2005.

He was one of the only two people to keep his position after Zanu-PF formed a coalition earlier this year with the Movement for Democratic Change.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in southern Africa says he was also one of the few politicians in Zimbabwe older than Mr Mugabe and had a front-row seat through much of the country's post-independence history.

His position as one of two vice-presidents was a legacy of Zimbabwe's first major political merger in the late 1980s.

As part of that deal, Mr Mugabe became president with Zapu guaranteed a vice-presidential position.

For decades Mr Msika served as Zapu's number two under Joshua Nkomo.

He attended the Lancaster House talks in 1980 which paved the way for Zimbabwe's independence and then when Mr Nkomo died in 1999 took his place as vice-president.

According to Reuters news agency, state media reported that Mr Msika was on life support when Mr Mugabe visited him on Tuesday night.



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