Mugabe describes health reports as naked lies

2011-01-24 13:00

Zimbabwe’s 86-year-old President Robert Mugabe has denied he has

been gravely ill and described reports he underwent surgery in Malaysia as

“naked lies.”

On his return from his yearly vacation, Mugabe said he had been in

Singapore, not Malaysia.

He arrived home late yesterday and is scheduled to attend a summit

of the African Union in Ethiopia this week.

Reports in British, South African and independent Zimbabwean media

said Mugabe was operated on for an inflamed prostate gland after suffering from

a prostate condition for several years.

They cited diplomats and other unnamed sources.

Mugabe told state radio that reports of his ill health were “naked

lies crafted by the Western-manipulated media”.

He also said there were always Western-sponsored rumours he was

dying when he was absent from his office.

“Those are the lies they put across from year to year. Now it’s

something you expect each time I go on leave and they also go on their

campaigns,” he was quoted as saying.

As Zimbabwe heads toward elections proposed later this year Mugabe

said there were members of his party “jostling” to be his successor.

He said that was an internal party issue to be dealt with by

Zanu-PF’s top policy body, its 50-member politburo, state radio reported.

An apparently robust Mugabe also told the broadcaster that he had

the constitutional power to call elections this year even if electoral and

constitutional reforms were not complete.

He said the power-sharing coalition with Prime Minister Morgan

Tsvangirai “was not meant to be a permanent arrangement”.

“I can invoke the existing constitution and call elections,” he

said.

The coalition was formed after disputed violence-plagued elections

in 2008.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change won the parliamentary

vote but he boycotted a presidential runoff poll to protest violence against his

supporters by Mugabe militants and loyalists in the police and military.

Independent poll monitors and human rights groups say an all-party

programme to rewrite the constitution last year through countrywide public

meetings was also marred by violence blamed mostly on Mugabe militants.

In the past, Mugabe has fended off challenges to his leadership but

now is believed by many to be losing his grip on factions in his party.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is also a top aide to Tsvangirai,

told supporters at a party rally in December that Mugabe fell asleep during a

two-hour meeting they had to discuss his 2011 budget proposals.

Mugabe’s public speeches have become noticeably shorter and

government ministers of the former opposition say the ascetic and intellectual

one-time school teacher recently has become prone to losing his concentration at

ministerial meetings.

 

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