HARARE – Vice President Constantino Chiwenga returned home on Saturday after spending four months in China receiving medical treatment for an unknown illness.
Chiwenga, the 63-year-old former general who led a coup against the late Robert Mugabe two years ago, has spent a large part of the year away from work, also receiving treatment in South Africa and India.
His health is of great interest to Zimbabweans as he is widely seen as the driving force behind the country’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the front-runner to succeed him. His absence from public duties had stoked speculation about the gravity of his illness, which authorities have sought to play down.
Pictures emerged of Chiwenga arriving at Harare’s airport on a Chinese government jet in the early hours of Saturday, looking healthier than when he was last seen in public in June.
He was welcomed by relatives including his brother, Onesimo, his son, Tawanda, and China’s deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang. There was, however, no sign of his wife, Mary, which will intensify speculation around their marriage which is reportedly on the rocks.
Chiwenga’s health deteriorated in July and he underwent two operations following a suspected poisoning.
Chiwenga and government officials were not available to comment on Saturday.
Government officials in Zimbabwe routinely seek medical treatment abroad while the country’s public health system has collapsed and hospitals struggle to provide medicines to patients.
Many Zimbabweans are angry that top government officials continue to travel abroad for treatment while state hospitals are turning away patients because doctors have been on a pay strike since September.
The government has so far fired 435 doctors for participating in the strike. – Reuters