NEW claims of President Robert Mugabe’s ill-health drew an angry response from his Zanu PF party and spokesman on Tuesday, as Malaysia denied he had undergone an operation on his prostate in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry reacted after a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Monday claimed Mugabe “is in hospital in Malaysia after an operation on his prostate”.
Citing diplomatic sources, the Telegraph said Mugabe, 87 on February 21, had undergone a "serious" operation after his prostate flared up, adding that “within his Zanu PF party, there is confidence he will return home within a week and recover fully.”
A Malaysian Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Malaysia Star newspaper: “There is no indication that Mugabe is here for an operation.”
The spokesman said the Zimbabwe High Commission had also confirmed Mugabe was not in Malaysia.
In Harare, the President’s spokesman George Charamba refused to answer questions on his whereabouts.
“You seem to know more about the President than I do,” said Charamba. “As far as I am concerned, the President is on his annual leave and we made this public. He will be back soon.”
Zanu PF politburo member and Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo claimed reports on President Mugabe’s health were an “annual ritual” for foreign correspondents, particularly when he goes on his yearly leave.
Moyo stormed: “Who are these people, are they witches or are they Good Samaritans genuinely concerned about the President’s health? What is it about this time every year that they peddle this tired story?
“As much as they are interested in his health, we are interested in their interest because it seems to be underwritten by malice. Just look back, the record will show this happens every year.
“The President cannot have a vacation and he cannot even have an annual medical check-up. If the President has flu, and he goes to see his doctor, they start sneezing everywhere.
“We are sick and tired of this annual ritual. These people who have become specialists at peddling this story must prove their lies and leave us alone. They start a rumour and when they realise they can’t give substance to it, they start calling us for comments, asking us to deny or confirm their rubbish as if that is our responsibility.”
Moyo said Zanu PF’s view was that the President’s whereabouts during his official leave was not in the public interest.
He added: “He is on leave, and where he is is not anyone’s business. The essence of private leave is that these people who are looking for him everywhere must not know where he is.
“They are interested in things that he is doing and things that he is not doing. He can’t see a dentist, he can’t see a doctor and when they see him shopping it’s a big deal as if they would rather have him without clothes.”
Mugabe has previously laughed off reports of ill-health. In secret diplomatic cables sent from Harare in 2009, and leaked recently by WikiLeaks, American diplomats who met with Mugabe said he “appeared to be a vigorous 85-year-old in superb health”.