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HARARE (Reuters) - A rumor than Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has suffered a heart attack is a "grim lie", his spokesman George Charamba said on Thursday.
The online news website Zim Eye (www.zimeye.net) published a letter on Tuesday saying the 91-year old leader Mugabe was "reported to have collapsed after suffering a heart attack while on holiday with his family".
The letter, by an anonymous author who did not reveal the source of the information, said Mugabe was in a critical condition and his family had been told to expect the worst.
"This is the way the website seeks to improve its hits in order to get dirty money from Google. There is a financial incentive to the grim lie," Charamba told Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper The Herald.
"... You cannot doubt that there will be a story on the President's alleged death every January."
Reports about the declining health of Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980, are relatively common, but Charamba normally declines to give an official response.
Mugabe likes to describe himself as "fit as a fiddle" but has shown signs of his advancing age in the last few years. He was caught on camera in 2015 tripping and falling down a short flight of stairs at Harare airport.
First vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, a powerful former security chief and for decades one of Mugabe's closest aides, stands in line to succeed Mugabe in the event of his death.
Writing by Joe Brock; editing by John Stonestreet