Connect to share and comment

What we're hearing right now.

Robert Mugabe, alive and well, returns to Zimbabwe

But rumors of his ill health prompt speculation over who will succeed the longtime ruler.
Robert mugabe healthy harare 2012 4 12Enlarge
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 88, chats with State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi on April 12, 2012 upon his arrival at the Harare international airport from Singapore following a two-week absence, which sparked reports that he was battling for life in a hospital in the city-state. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

He's back!

Yes, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrived back in Harare early this morning and was greeted by top cabinet ministers and military chiefs who lined up on the airport runway.

Mugabe, 88, looked hail and hearty and bounded down the stairs from the plane, reported Reuters, dashing widespread rumors that he was battling for his life in a Singapore hospital bed.

Mugabe landed in a private jet chartered by a diamond mining company. Air Zimbabwe, the state airline he routinely uses, had planes grounded by debts in January.

The Zimbabwean dictator was brisk and businesslike at the airport. He held the hand of his wife, Grace, who is 40 years younger than him.

He is scheduled to chair a cabinet meeting later Thursday, two days later than first scheduled, according to his party, Zanu-PF. 

The ruling party dismissed reports that he had been gravely ill as “a lot of hogwash” by hostile Western media organizations.

Mugabe has made ten trips to Singapore in the past 16 months, reportedly for medical treatment and he is rumored to be under treatment for prostate cancer, reported AP. 

On this trip, Mugabe left Harare on March 31 to supervise post-graduate studies for his daughter Bona, 22, in Hong Kong, his office said, according to Voice of America.

Intense speculation on his health in Zimbabwe came after a popular Nigerian preacher claimed to prophesy the imminent deaths of elderly, autocratic southern African rulers. Malawi’s 78-year-old president, Bingu wa Mutharika, then died suddenly on April 5.

But Mugabe appeared healthy today and Zimbabwe's Information Minister Webster Shamu later chided journalists for reporting that he was deathly ill.

“As you can see, the man is fit ... Why do we lie and why do we panic?” said Shamu. 

Mugabe, who has been in power for 32 years, has called for elections this year and has been nominated as his party’s only presidential candidate.

He 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.

More from GlobalPost: Robert Mugabe's birthday: At 88 he is "fit as a fiddle" (PHOTOS)

In the broadcasts, he also acknowledged he had not groomed a successor in his fractious Zanu-PF party, which is in a shaky coalition government with former opposition leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The power-sharing government was formed by regional mediators after violent, disputed elections in 2008.

Persistent reports of Mugabe's failing health have intensified speculation over who will succeed him. There is infighting in his party between factions led by Vice President Joice Mujuru and Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mujuru’s group has been weakened by the death of her husband, a former guerrilla leader and army commander who was seen as a major Zanu-PF power broker. Gen. Solomon Mujuru was burned beyond recognition in a mysterious house fire last year. A court inquest recently ruled there was no foul play in his death. 

Mugabe led a guerilla war to end white minority Rhodesia and he became the first leader of majority rule Zimbabwe in 1980. Critics blame Mugabe's policies for an economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and an upsurge in political violence, intimidation and human rights abuses over the past decade.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese eat up Zimbabwe's endangered wildlife

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/robert-mugabe-alive-and-well-returns-zimbabwe