HARARE – Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa ended weeks of silence on his alleged poisoning by thanking God for sparing his life during the sudden illness in Gwanda which saw him being airlifted to South Africa for emergency surgery this month.
By Gift Phiri
Mnangagwa, who turns 75 next month, is touted as a possible successor to President Robert Mugabe.
He was airlifted to South Africa three weeks ago after falling ill while attending a Zanu PF youth interface rally in Gwanda.
“Handizivi kuti pandakararama apa Mwari achandipa mamwe mangani (After this close shave, I don’t know how many more years God will give me),” said Mnangagwa during his visit to the Muzenda home where he had gone to pay his condolences on Friday.
“Pamwe uchangouya odzura hake. Mwari ndivo mukuru wazvose. Akada kukutora hazvina muvhunzo, hazvina consultation, hazvina feasibility study. (Perhaps he will return to pluck me. Everything is under the control of the sovereignty of God. When He decides to take you, you can’t argue with His decision, there are no consultations, no feasibility studies).”
Mnangagwa, speaking in vernacular, said everyone was a flower in God’s garden, and in another aspect, we all are sojourners here, and that this world is not our home.
Quoting Psalm 135:6, Mnangagwa said whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in Heaven and on Earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Mnangagwa was absent from the burial of Moudy Aloisia Muzenda, the late VP Simon Muzenda’s widow, whose remains were interred at the National Heroes Acre on Saturday.
Mugabe told mourners at the Heroes Acre that Mnangagwa’s health was not yet permitting him to attend public and national events.
“Mnangagwa, we were with him but he told us, he has not fully recovered and will not be able to come to the Heroes Acre. His doctors told him that he must not strain himself at this juncture. He went home to rest,” Mugabe said.
Mnangagwa fell ill during Mugabe’s address to the youths at Pelandaba Stadium in a development which has further strained relations among mistrusting Zanu PF senior officials.
Government has claimed Mnangagwa — seen as the most likely official to take over from Mugabe in the event that he leaves office — consumed “stale food”.
Mnangagwa’s family and allies insist, however, that the vice president was poisoned by rivals.
“He did not consume any stale food. He flew from Harare to Bulawayo along with many other people before taking a helicopter to Gwanda, so I wonder where the stale food would have come from,” Cabinet minister and Mnangagwa’s confidante, Joram Gumbo, told the Daily News recently.
Police have said they have not received any formal complaints to investigate the alleged poisoning of Mnangagwa.
Police spokesperson senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba told the Daily News last week that they could not look into the allegations without a formal complaint, and said it was up to any potential victims to come forward to tell their stories to police.
Sources told the Daily News that Mnangagwa suspects he could have eaten poisoned food in the helicopter he boarded with Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Health minister David Parirenyatwa and aides.
In the helicopter, he is said to have eaten pre-packed food in kaylite boxes which included samoosas, chicken and a sausage roll.
Mnangagwa’s vomiting, according to those close to him, was described by doctors as projectile vomiting.
Projectile vomiting refers to vomiting that ejects the gastric contents with great force and in some cases it can be so forceful that some material exits through the nose.
Mnangagwa’s associates say this vomiting was not consistent with effects of eating “stale” food.
They said if he had not vomited in Gwanda where he flushed out about 125 level of poison, he could have died as doctors in South Africa still discovered he had about 375 level in his body, prompting emergency surgery.
Mnangagwa is said to have lost six litres of fluids during this period.
There has been widespread speculation that Mnangagwa consumed food poisoned by his Zanu PF rivals in an attempt to physically eliminate him from the succession race.
With Mugabe turning 94 in February next year, fierce jostling has emerged among his top lieutenants who believe they have what it takes to succeed him.
The race, which has been on for the past two decades, has had its intrigues.
Four vice presidents have so far succumbed to varying ailments, denying them the opportunity to get a chance to run for the top office.
These are Joshua Nkomo (1917–1999); Simon Muzenda (1922–2003); Joseph Msika (1923–2009) and John Landa Nkomo (1934–2013).
More interestingly, Joice Mujuru, once seen as a shoo-in to take over from Mugabe, was fired from Zanu PF and government in 2014 for plotting to dethrone her boss using unconstitutional means.
Mujuru, who is now leading the National People’s Party, had deputised Mugabe for about 10 years.
Nicknamed “the crocodile” in the Shona language, Mnangagwa was appointed after the sacking of Mujuru.
But since taking over from Mujuru, Mnangagwa has found himself facing similar charges from his internal rivals of plotting to unseat Mugabe.
Mnangagwa’s allies are therefore pointing an accusing finger at their rivals in G40 for what happened in Gwanda although there is no evidence to validate their claims.
In the past, there have been six break-ins at his offices with his allies saying those were plots to eliminate him.