Mugabe mocks death rumours, says he's "back from the dead"

Robert Mugabe said he had gone to Dubai on a family matter concerning one of his children and not to seek medical treatment.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives home from abroad at the capital's main airport in Harare, Zimbabwe September 3, 2016.

Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe returned home from abroad on Saturday, a trip which led to speculation that he was severely ill and had sought medical help in Dubai.

The leader joked that he came back from the dead  mocking rumours that he had died.

"Yes, I was dead. It's true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do once I get back to my country. I am real again," he told reporters at Harare international airport after arriving from Dubai.

Reports that Mugabe's health is declining have become common in recent years, but the veteran politician, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, often refers to himself as "fit as a fiddle".

Mugabe told journalists at Harare international airport he had gone to Dubai on a family matter concerning one of his children.

But Mugabe showed some signs of frailty, walking slowly from the plane and only chatting briefly with officials before being whisked away in a motorcade.

Mugabe, came back to the grim reality of rising public anger over an economic meltdown widely blamed on his misrule, with violence erupting a week ago when police fired teargas at opposition leaders and protesters.

Zimbabwe's opposition supporters set up a burning barricade as they clash with police during a protest for electoral reforms on August 26, 2016 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mugabe rejects the blame for a crisis currently manifesting itself in acute cash shortages and high unemployment, and last week warned protesters there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe, referring to the uprisings that toppled several Arab leaders.

He routinely blames Zimbabwe's economic problems on sabotage by Western opponents of his policies, such as the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for black people.

Last week Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring recent anti-government protests.

But even some of his once stalwart supporters, including Zimbabwe's war veterans who invaded white commercial farms in support of Mugabe's land seizures, have turned their backs on him, saying he has "devoured" the values of the liberation struggle.

Zimbabwe, which has also been hit by drought and weak commodity prices, is struggling to pay salaries to soldiers, police and other public workers, fuelling political tensions, including within the ruling ZANU-PF.

Divisions have emerged inside the party as senior officials position themselves for power after the veteran leader is gone, with one faction supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa while another backs first lady Grace Mugabe.

TRTWorld and agencies