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President Mugabe's Absence Forces Another Punt on Zimbabwe Cabinet

The well-being of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was back in focus Monday after his chief secretary issued a statement saying cabinet will again not meet on Tuesday as per tradition because Mr. Mugabe remains out of the country.

The announcement riled some ministers and ordinary citizens who feel the president’s continued absence is crippling the coalition government.

Mr. Mugabe left Harare March 30 for Singapore on private business, and cabinet hasn't convened since.

The ministerial grouping did not meet last Tuesday, and Mugabe's chief secretary, Misheck Sibanda, said this week's schedule had been moved to Thursday, suggesting the 88-year-old veteran leader will return between late Tuesday and Wednesday.

President Mugabe is the sole convener of cabinet, and has obstinately refused to delegate the role to any of his two deputies or the prime minister in his absence.

While his spokesman, George Charamba says the president traveled to arrange post-graduate studies for his daughter, analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans are skeptical.

Instead, they believe Mr. Mugabe may be seeking extensive treatment for advanced prostate cancer, though he has denied he has this condition.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week tried to convene a Council of Ministers meeting that he is empowered to chair, but ZANU-PF ministers boycotted, accusing him of seeking to usurp Mr. Mugabe’s mandate.

National Healing Minister Moses Mzila Ndlovu, a member of the MDC wing led by Welshman Ncube told VOA that Mr. Mugabe is holding the nation to ransom. "His absence means the country grinds to a halt, and this needs to change."

Mzila's sentiments were echoed by London-based political commentator, Nkululeko Sibanda.

Meanwhile, Zimbabweans have praised the smooth transition of power in Malawi following the death last week of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of heart attack.

Opposition People’s Party leader, Joyce Banda has since taken charge.

Commentators in Zimbabwe say by allowing Banda to take over, Malawian politicians respected their constitution, a rarity in many African countries.

Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from the Malawi experience.