Government has launched a fully-fledged investigation to smoke out those behind the suspected poisoning of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is recovering at a private hospital in neighbouring South Africa, the Daily News can report.
Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned in Gwanda, while attending a rally presided over by his boss, President Robert Mugabe, who is on a whirlwind tour of the country’s 10 political provinces on what his party has dubbed “youth interface meetings”.
He had to be rushed to a nearby hospital in Matabeleland South to stabilise his condition, before he was airlifted to Gweru.
In Gweru, he initially sought treatment at Claybank Hospital in Windsor, and later spent the night under heavy guard at a military clinic at Thornhill Airbase.
Amid security concerns by Mnangagwa’s allies, and also anxiety that the politician was being targeted for assassination, the incident has worsened tensions in the ruling Zanu-PF party – for long split along two factions, namely Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40).
The military, seen as sympathetic to Mnangagwa’s prospects of succeeding Mugabe, has, along with his family, virtually taken charge of the vice president’s battle for survival, with the other arms of government that should have been at the forefront of it, playing second fiddle.
For example, on his way to seek specialist treatment in South Africa, the vice president had to be accompanied by a military doctor, Paul Chimedza – a former deputy minister for Health.
The entourage also included Marry Chiwenga, wife to Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, Constantino Chiwenga – who is keeping the ZDF chief upraised of developments – and a top security operative, Charles Mpanduki.
From the family side, Mnangagwa’s son Emmerson Dambudzo Junior and the vice president’s wife, Auxillia, accompanied him.
From the time he was airlifted from Gwanda, to being committed into an Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) health institution and to being airlifted to South Africa from Manyame Airbase on Sunday, the army has basically taken charge of the proceedings, with the full blessings of his family.
So deep has been the army’s involvement in the arrangements that the civilian side of government struggled for information because of the secretive nature of all military operations.
It was only yesterday that government was able to put together some information for the public’s consumption ahead of Mugabe’s address at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa, who gave first aid assistance to Mnangagwa while in Gwanda on Saturday, told the media yesterday that the vice president was now out of danger.
“This is really to give an update to the nation about the state of . . . Mnangagwa. What I would like to say is that he is much improved. In fact, I just spoke with him – he is jovial and he is well but he requested that we send him to his doctors in South Africa where he is now,” said Parirenyatwa, who issued the statement along with Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe.
“You are all aware that he had severe vomiting and diarrhoea in Gwanda and we took him to appropriate institutions within the country where he was properly stabilised and appropriate investigations were then commenced and still in progress to establish the source. The situation is much better; he is well stabilised. Preliminarily blood tests were okay but I cannot confirm anything further than that because this is personal. The appropriate medical investigations will be done as well in terms of blood, stool, urine and so forth,” he added.
In his salutation while addressing Zanu-PF supporters at the National Heroes Acre a few hours later yesterday, Mugabe said his deputy was recovering in a hospital in South Africa.
Mnangagwa’s younger brother, Peter, told the Daily News in an interview that the politician was fine.
“He is alright, I don’t know much only the doctors can confirm whether he is out of danger or not,” said Mnangagwa.
Widely regarded as Mugabe’s most likely successor, Mnangagwa was, according to witnesses, vomiting and suffering from stomach cramps while the Zanu-PF leader was addressing thousands of party supporters in Gwanda on Saturday.
He had been among top government officials who attended the official opening of Jahunda Community Information Centre by Mugabe in the afternoon before he joined other dignitaries for the Zanu-PF youth interface rally held at Pelandaba Stadium.
As they arrived at the event, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and Mnangagwa did not shake hands.
As the event progressed, the Daily News witnessed two youths clad in Zanu-PF regalia heading for the VVIP stand where Mnangagwa was seated next to Mugabe, with Supa Mandiwanzira – the Information Communication Technology minister and Mphoko on the other side.
The two youths who were carrying bottled water, first served Mnangagwa and Mandiwanzira before proceeding to Mugabe and Mphoko.
During the proceedings, Mnangagwa looked strong and fit.
After the launch of the information centre, Mandiwanzira asked senior government officials including the two vice presidents to leave the venue first so as to ensure that they would be at Pelandaba Stadium in time to receive the president.
At the rally, Mnangagwa still appeared strong as he chanted his popular “Pasi nemhandu (Down with the enemy)” slogan.
About 40 minutes into Mugabe’s speech, Mnangagwa reportedly started vomiting before he was whisked away to the back stage.
Before that, Mnangagwa had been briefly attended to by the ambulance crew who reportedly recommended that he be taken to hospital.
He was then taken to a police provincial headquarters where he was airlifted to a private hospital in Gweru.
Mnangagwa’s allies are pointing accusing fingers at their rivals, the G40 faction.
In the past, there have been six break-ins at his offices with his allies saying those were plots to eliminate him.