Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe arrived back in the nation’s capital, Harare, dwarfing wild speculations that his life has been in danger of death.
There had been rumours across the world that he was close to death during his recent visit to Singapore where it had been speculated he was hospitalised with complicated health problems.
The rumous were brushed off Thursday as he returned back home from Asia looking ‘as fit as a fiddle’.
Mugabe, 88, did not speak to reporters after landing in Harare, but his party insisted the claims were ‘a lot of hogwash’ spread by hostile Western media.
Mr Mugabe is said to be suffering from prostate cancer and has made 10 trips to Singapore in the past 16 months, where he is believed to have received medical treatment.
But on Thursday morning, he was seen joking and laughing with cabinet members as he arrived back from the trip.
After he flew out by private jet almost two weeks ago, this latest trip sparked speculation that he was preparing to die – and had appointed feared right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa as his successor.
Military chiefs and party leaders were excited, as they wait to greet the president in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare on Thursday morning and he was due to chair a weekly cabinet meeting later today, two days later than scheduled.
Mr Mugabe, who has been in power for more than three decades, has called for elections this year and has been nominated as his party’s only presidential candidate.
His office said he left the southern African country on March 31 to supervise postgraduate studies for his daughter Bona, 22, in Hong Kong.
Intense speculation on his health came after a popular Nigerian preacher predicted the imminent deaths of elderly, autocratic southern African rulers. Malawi’s 78-year-old president then died on April 5.
Zimbabwe’s information minister Webster Shamu had invited reporters to the Harare airport to witness Mr Mugabe’s arrival. He said the media had ‘spread rumours’
‘As you can see, the man is fit. Why do we lie and why do we panic?’ he queried, chastising reporters.
Mr Mugabe landed in a private jet chartered by a diamond mining company. The state airline he routinely used was grounded by debts in January.
Reporters said his arrival was brisk and businesslike. Mr Mugabe held the hand of his wife Grace and was dressed as usual in an impeccable dark business suit
Mr Mugabe has appeared robust at recent public appearances. In broadcasts marking his 88th birthday in February he said he was ‘as fit as a fiddle’. He joked then he had been resurrected more often than Jesus Christ after detractors frequently pronounced him dead.
In the broadcasts, he also acknowledged he had not groomed a successor in his fractious Zanu PF party, a shaky coalition with former opposition leader prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed by regional mediators after violent, disputed elections in 2008.
Persistent reports of his failing health have intensified infighting in the party, between factions led by vice president Joice Mujuru and defence minister Mr Mnangagwa.
Should the president die in office, one of the two would be likely to assume leadership – although some party figures see Mr Mugabe’s old age as a potential weakness in the election and are pushing for this to happen sooner.
Ms Mujuru’s group has been weakened by the death of her husband, a former guerrilla leader and army commander seen as a major Zanu PF power broker.
General Solomon Mujuru was burnt beyond recognition in a mysterious house fire last year and though questions remained over how he died a court ruled there was no foul play.
Gen Mujuru’s family has demanded his remains are exhumed from a national shrine for independent forensic analysis.