News / Africa

Mugabe's Absence Reportedly Hinders Zimbabwe Government

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, welcomes the Chinese foreign affairs minister Yang Jiechi at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 11, 2011 (file photo)
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, welcomes the Chinese foreign affairs minister Yang Jiechi at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 11, 2011 (file photo)

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Peta Thornycroft

President Robert Mugabe left Zimbabwe last Friday for medical treatment in Asia. Mugabe's recent absences from Harare means that the executive branch has met for just two hours in the last two months.

Mugabe told colleagues he was traveling to Singapore for a post-operative check after an operation on one of his eyes. His spokesman George Charamba said he had a cataract removed during his annual break in Singapore last month.

Mugabe's health remains a closely guarded secret. The president is reportedly suffering health setbacks in his recovery after what had been initially billed as a minor medical procedure in Singapore last month.

Last month, though, Mugabe - one of Africa's longest serving leaders - dismissed reports of his medical problems as "naked lies."

Mugabe goes on holiday each year in Asia over the Christmas and New Year break. He also consults doctors in Asia.

Ministers in the inclusive government said Friday they received notification that cabinet was canceled Tuesday. Last week, Mugabe only attended the cabinet for about two hours. The last full cabinet meeting was on December 14.

Senior government officials in Harare say ministers are anxious because they need to make decisions to meet urgent deadlines.

The main goal of the two-year-old unity government was to reform repressive laws inherited from the previous ZANU-PF government so that free and fair elections can be held.

Irene Petras, director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said parliament has been unable to reform many laws because of delays by the executive.

Charamba said Mugabe will return to Zimbabwe on February 20, the day before his 87th birthday.

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