Robert Mugabe was the subject of frequent death rumours as he advanced in age and showed increasing signs of frailty, although he always insisted he was "fit as a fiddle".
In his twilight years he made numerous trips to Singapore, Dubai and elsewhere for "routine medical check-ups", "eye operations" or "private visits", according to the official line.
With the state of his health a closely guarded secret, his travels and unexplained absences triggered regular speculation that he had died -- especially during his annual December-January vacation.
He rebutted the rumours with gallows humour.
"Yes, I was dead," he told reporters on his return from Dubai in September 2016 after an online news site reported that he had collapsed and died mid-air.
"It's true I was dead. I resurrected as I always do. Once I get back to my country, I am real."
He denied that he had been rushed abroad for urgent medical attention saying: "I had gone on a family matter to Dubai concerning one of my children".
He appeared to enjoy dismissing reports of his death, saying he had come back to life more times than Jesus Christ.
"I have died many times," he said during an interview on state television on the eve of his 92nd birthday.
"That's where I have beaten Christ. Christ died once and resurrected once."
He declared during the interview he was "fit as a fiddle", even daring the interviewer to a fight by raising his fist and flexing his muscle.
Debunking another annual outbreak of rumours, Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said in 2016: "This is not new. It is year in year out. He is sick, he dies and resurrects. His life... revolves around illness and death."
WikiLeaks released a 2008 US diplomatic cable in 2011 saying Mugabe was reported to have prostate cancer and had less than five years to live.
In his 90s, he defied his age and continued to give long speeches in public, although he took slow cautious steps when he walked and drawled when speaking, often pausing for long moments.
His health was relentlessly in the spotlight after 2015 when he tripped and fell down some steps in a televised ceremony.
His office sought to downplay the incident claiming Mugabe broke his fall after tripping over a carpet, saying it was an amazing feat for a person of his age.
After the fall, Mugabe said he felt invigorated like an athlete who was a few strides from the finishing line.
At his 93rd birthday celebrations, he mused on his mortality saying: "It's not always easy to predict that although you are alive this year, you will be alive next year.
"The decision that you continue to live and enjoy life is that of one personality we call Almighty God."
He also spoke of the loneliness he felt after the death of many friends and family members of his generation.
"I ask myself 'Why have I lived this long, alone and alive?'" he said.
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