‘Yes, I was dead,’ jokes Mugabe on return to Zimbabwe

After an absence that led to intense speculation that he was ill, the world’s oldest head of state returns home.

Zimbabwe''s President Robert Mugabe addresses mourners gathered for the burial of National Hero Charles Utete at the Heroes Acre in Harare
File: At 92 years old, Mugabe is the world's oldest head of state [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe arrived home after an overseas absence that led to intense speculation about his health – and joked that he had come back to life.

“Yes, I was dead, it’s true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do. Once I get back to my country I am real,” the world’s oldest head of state said on Saturday after arriving in the capital Harare.

He had left a regional summit on Tuesday, but flight data showed his plane went to Dubai after an original flight path indicated a course toward Asia. Mugabe has received treatment in Singapore in the past.

“I had gone on a family matter to Dubai concerning one of my children,” he told reporters, without giving details.

His spokesman had denied reports that Mugabe, the target of near-daily protests in recent weeks, was ill.

The leader was expected to address a youth meeting at his ruling party’s headquarters later on Saturday.

READ MORE: Zimbabwe police fire tear gas at anti-Mugabe protesters

His absence had raised the level of uncertainly in a country already in economic and political turmoil. Frustration has been rising in Zimbabwe over a plummeting economy and allegations of government corruption.

Police on Thursday banned protests in the capital for two weeks, on the eve of a demonstration planned by a newly formed coalition of opposition groups.

Mugabe has been in power since 1980, and many in Zimbabwe have known no other leader in their lifetime.

He has said he will run again in elections scheduled for 2018.

Recently, his wife, Grace, said Mugabe would rule from the grave.

Zimbabwe police break up anti-Mugabe protests

Source: AP