Mugabe Dismisses Surgery Reports; May Call Election

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe dismissed reports that he underwent surgery in Malaysia as “naked lies” and said he may call an election without a new constitution being put in place.

The Telegraph, a London-based newspaper, reported on Jan. 17 that Mugabe had traveled to Malaysia for treatment on his prostate gland. The 86-year-old leader said he had been in Singapore on vacation.

“I was not in Malaysia. Those are lies that they put across,” Mugabe said in remarks broadcast on state television, which also showed footage of him arriving at Harare International Airport. “It’s a thing we now expect each time I go on leave. We were just resting.”

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. Two years ago, his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party formed a power-sharing government with the Movement for Democratic Change, after a presidential vote was aborted because of violence. While the coalition brought Zimbabwe out of a decade of recession, the parties remain at odds about writing a new constitution and holding elections.

Mugabe said he may invoke the constitution and call an election even if the coalition government fails to agree on a new charter. The constitution-making process is running almost a year behind schedule because of a lack of funding and arguing between the coalition partners.

‘Dragging Feet’

Last month, Mugabe said his party should end the coalition government because “some are dragging their feet on elections.” Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, wants a referendum on a new constitution before elections are held.

“I have the constitutional right, in the absence of any position regarding the new constitution, to cause an election,” Mugabe said. “Those who don’t want elections, if they don’t want, we will have parliament dissolved and go for elections.”

Zimbabwe has the world’s second-biggest reserves of platinum, after neighboring South Africa. Rio Tinto Plc, based in London and Johannesburg-based Anglo Platinum Ltd. operate mines in the country.