Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Saturday he was not stepping down nor dying and that there was no one with his political stature to immediately take over from him.

The 93-year-old had led the country since independence in 1980. His health is closely watched by Zimbabweans, who fear the country could face chaos if he dies without anointing a successor.

Mugabe told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in the town of Chinhoyi, in his home province, that doctors were recently surprised by his “strong bone system”.

He has travelled to Singapore three times this year for what officials say is routine medical treatment.

“There is the issue that the president is going. I am not going,” Mugabe said on the grounds of a local university, 100km west of the capital, Harare.