mugabe 'is not sick'

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has returned home from "a private visit" to Dubai, government officials said yesterday, contrary to reports that he was undergoing treatment there.

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has returned home from "a private visit" to Dubai, government officials said yesterday, contrary to reports that he was undergoing treatment there.

An official who requested anonymity said Mugabe had returned home on Tuesday evening in the Air Zimbabwe plane that flew him there last week.

Earlier, defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa said: "As far as I know, he is well, unless it is a minor ailment like flu which might have happened while he was away."

Of reports in the South African press that he had been admitted to hospital, Mnangagwa said: "We are reading it in the newspapers."

Official spokesman George Charamba was not available for comment.

Mugabe was not present at a meeting of his former ruling Zanu-PF party's central committee yesterday, but officials pointed out he had not been at the two previous meetings of the body either.

There was no explanation in the state media yesterday for his failure to speak at the burial of Zanu-PF politburo member Richard Hove on Tuesday.

Mugabe is due to host President Jacob Zuma today at the opening of the Harare Agricultural Show.

Zuma has promised to raise "very weighty issues" with the 85-year-old leader over the troubled coalition government he shares with prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Early this month, Tsvangirai met Zuma in Pretoria where he asked Zuma to press Mugabe on issues relating to the formation of a coalition government six months ago.

These include the unilateral appointment of Zanu-PF members as central bank chief and attorney- general, Mugabe's refusal to swear in popular white MDC treasurer Roy Bennett, and a wave of prosecutions of MDC parliamentarians on what the party says are "trumped-up" charges.

Government sources would only say that Mugabe had returned on Wednesday last week from an official visit to Namibia and had left immediately for Dubai. - Sapa-DPA

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