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Mugabe Returns to Zimbabwe Amid Ill Health Rumors

FILE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

FILE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's 92-year-old leader has returned home amid rumors his health is failing.

Robert Mugabe's plane touched down at the main airport in the capital, Harare, on Saturday.

Reports say Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader, went to Dubai to seek medical attention.

Zimbabweans are growing increasingly frustrated with Mugabe and his failure to fix the economy.

He is dealing with a wave of opposition to his 36-year rule in the form of public protests. Zimbabwe's chronic economic woes have intensified following a drought and a severe cash shortage that has held up salaries for civil servants.

"The people's desperation is very deep," says former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Reuters reports that on Saturday Mr. Mugabe poured scorn on rumors on some online news websites - partly fed by his early departure from a regional summit - that he had been rushed for medical treatment in Dubai.

Mr. Mugabe told journalists at Harare international airport he had gone to Dubai on a family matter concerning one of his children.

"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," he quipped.

But Mr. Mugabe showed some signs of frailty, walking slowly from the plane and only chatting briefly with officials before being whisked away in a motorcade.

President Mugabe rejects the blame for a crisis currently manifesting itself in acute cash shortages and high unemployment, and last week warned protesters there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe, referring to the uprisings that toppled several Arab leaders.

He routinely blames Zimbabwe's economic problems on sabotage by Western opponents of his policies, such as the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for black people.

Last week Mr. Mugabe accused Western countries, including the United States, of sponsoring recent anti-government protests.

But even some of his once stalwart supporters, including Zimbabwe's war veterans who invaded white commercial farms in support of President Mugabe's land seizures, have turned their backs on him, saying he has "devoured" the values of the liberation struggle.

Zimbabwe, which has also been hit by drought and weak commodity prices, is struggling to pay salaries to soldiers, police and other public workers, fuelling political tensions, including within the ruling ZANU-PF.

Divisions have emerged inside the party as senior officials position themselves for power after the veteran leader is gone, with one faction said to be supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa while another backs first lady Grace Mugabe. (VOA, REUTERS)