Officials in Zimbabwe have refused to confirm reports that President Robert Mugabe has undergone emergency prostate cancer surgery in Malaysia.

‘As far as I am concerned, the president is on his annual leave. He will be back soon,’ presidential spokesman George Charamba was quoted as saying in Tuesday’s edition of the independent daily Newsday.

The paper also quoted a spokesman for Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) party as saying: ‘As a party, what we know is that he is on annual leave.’

A report earlier this week in British daily The Telegraph said the 86-year-old leader had undergone examinations on the condition of his prostate gland while on vacation in Malaysia and then returned home.

He was then forced to fly back to Kuala Lumpur for surgery after his gland condition suddenly worsened, the paper said.

Speculation about the president’s health has been growing over the past year amid signs of increased frailty.

In February, Zimbabwean diplomats said he repeatedly nodded off while meeting them.

Mugabe was said to have collapsed with exhaustion at last year’s United Nations general assembly in New York, while members of his cabinet have at times complained about his lapses in concentration.