PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe flew to Singapore on Monday for what a senior aide called a routine medical check-up, reviving speculation about the health of the 88-year-old leader who has denied reports he has cancer.
Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only leader since independence from Britain in 1980, brought forward his weekly cabinet meeting to Monday before his departure, officials said.
"The president is going on a private visit for a routine medical checkup - not because he is sick or anything like that, but one consistent with his strong belief in getting regular medical examinations in order to stay healthy," a senior official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
Asked why the president was going abroad if it was a routine issue, the official said: "I am not going to be dragged into that kind of malicious debate."
Another official said Mugabe - who addressed a central committee meeting of his Zanu PF party on Friday - was expected back next week but refused to discuss any further details.
Mugabe's spokesman was not available for comment.
State radio ZBC said Mugabe had gone for a review of an eye operation he had last year and denounced international media for exaggerating his health problems.
Local media reports say Mugabe traveled to Singapore eight times last year alone to seek medical attention.
A June 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last year said Mugabe had prostate cancer that had spread to other organs. His doctor urged him to step down in 2008, according to the cable.
In April, aides angrily denied reports by some international media that he was undergoing intensive treatment in a Singapore hospital and was fighting for his life.
Mugabe, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders who has been accused of rigging elections to stay in power, has often laughed off suggestions that he is seriously ill, saying he is fit enough to contest a poll due in the next year.