ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe has returned from his annual month-long holiday and returned to work Saturday, state media said, following rumours that he had collapsed and died in Asia.
Mugabe, who turns 92 next month, met Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for over three hours on Saturday in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, state-run newspaper The Herald said.
“President Mugabe and the First Lady Grace Mugabe arrived home last night (Friday), quashing false media reports that (he) had suffered a heart attack while on his annual leave in the Far East,” The Herald said.
Harare last week denied rumours that Mugabe, the world’s oldest national leader who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, had collapsed and died while on holiday.
Despite his age, Mugabe continues to give long speeches in public, but speculation over his health grew last year when he tripped and fell down some steps at a televised ceremony.
He also read a speech to parliament in September apparently unaware that he had delivered the same address a month earlier.
WikiLeaks released a 2008 US diplomatic cable in 2011 saying that Mugabe was reported to have prostate cancer and had less than five years to live.
His regime is accused of systematic human rights abuses and overseeing Zimbabwe’s dire economic decline.
Refused to answer
After meeting in Harare, Mugabe and Nguema told reporters they had discussed relations between their countries as well as security and terrorism in Africa.
Mugabe is the current—and outgoing— political head of the African Union, while Nguema served in 2011.
While Mugabe refused to answer questions about his holiday, he told reporters they should “report (on) us (African leaders) better than they have been doing all along”.
Nguema, 73, ascended to office in August 1979 after ousting his uncle in a military coup and is currently the longest serving leader in Africa, on the back of the country’s oil riches.
Mugabe served as prime minister from 1980 before becoming president seven years later following a constitutional change. He has been the main political force in the country since independence, but his waning powers have set off a behind-the-scenes scramble to succeed him..