'Yes, I was dead': Zimbabwe's Mugabe scoffs at death rumours

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives home from abroad at the capital's main airport in Harare, Zimbabwe on Sept 3, 2016.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives home from abroad at the capital's main airport in Harare, Zimbabwe on Sept 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe joked on Saturday (Sept 3) that he had been resurrected as he returned from a foreign trip, mocking rumours that he had died or is critically ill.

"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 again," the 92-year-old ruler told reporters at Harare international airport after arriving from Dubai.

His comments came after an online news site reported he had died mid-air on his trip to Dubai.

Mr Mugabe's health has been increasingly under the spotlight in recent years, particularly after he fell down a staircase after addressing supporters last year.

He has denied reports of ill health and vowed to stand for re-election in 2018, but recent weeks have seen a surge of demonstrations against his rule, which stretches back to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe police announced on Thursday a two-week ban on protests in the capital Harare, after a string of violent demonstrations in recent weeks calling on Mr Mugabe to step down.

Zimbabwe has suffered an economic crisis since the start of the century, with 90 per cent of the population not in formal employment.

The cash-strapped government has been slow to pay the salaries of public sector workers while banks are running out of cash.