Mugabe dispels death rumours as he returns 'fit and well' to Zimbabwe


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The Independent Online

Looking hale and hearty as he shook the hands of dignitaries at Harare airport, President Robert Mugabe put an end to rumours that he was gravely ill when he returned to Zimbabwe yesterday morning.

The 88-year-old President, who was expected to chair a delayed cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon, did not speak to reporters and no explanation was given for his extended absence.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Webster Shamu, had invited reporters to Harare's airport to witness Mr Mugabe's arrival. He told reporters: "As you can see, the man is fit. Why do we lie and why do we panic?"

Ministers had dismissed as "hogwash" reports that President Mugabe had been taken ill while abroad. He officially left the country on 31 March to make arrangements for the post-graduate studies of his 22-year-old daughter, Bona, in Hong Kong. One cabinet meeting he was due to chair was cancelled last week and a second, due on Tuesday, was postponed until yesterday.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which since 2009 has been in coalition with Mr Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) did not comment or question the President's prolonged absence.

But the opposition media have claimed that Mr Mugabe made 10 trips to Singapore over the past 16 months, the majority of which were assumed to be for medical treatment. Last year, WikiLeaks released a United States embassy cable from 2008, saying Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono had told the then US ambassador that Mr Mugabe had prostate cancer, which had spread to other organs.