Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

'Fit' Mugabe returns to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe (AP)

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has arrived home from Asia as his party denied reports he had suffered a health emergency.

Mugabe, 88, was met at the main Harare airport by party leaders and military chiefs under normal protocol. He did not speak to waiting reporters.

Mugabe's party dismissed reports that he had been gravely ill as "a lot of hogwash" from hostile Western media organisations.

He is scheduled to chair a ministerial meeting, two days later than scheduled, the party said.

Mugabe has made 10 trips to Singapore in the past 16 months, reportedly for medical treatment. Said to be under treatment for prostate cancer, he has called for elections this year and has been nominated as his party's only presidential candidate.

This time around, Mugabe left Harare on March 31 to supervise postgraduate studies for his daughter Bona, 22, in Hong Kong, his office said.

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 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 said, castigating reporters.

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. Mugabe held the hand of his wife Grace and was dressed as usual in an impeccable dark business suit.