Mystery surrounds Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s illness as two contending narratives have emerged following a food poisoning scare which erupted while he was attending a Zanu PF youth interface rally in Gwanda last week.
By Elias Mambo
This comes amid indications Mnangagwa is likely to return home this weekend after week-long medical treatment in South Africa.
There are two contending stories with regards to Mnangagwa’s illness: the first is that of food poisoning which government has proffered.
It entails that he ate contaminated food, while those close to the vice-president say he ate poisoned food (food deliberately laced with poison).
This week, Information minister Chris Mushowe allayed fears that Mnangagwa could have been poisoned.
“I just wanted to allay fears that some people are getting out of the mischievous social media maniacs who throw unfounded stories on the social media. There is absolutely nothing like that. He is fine,” he said.
“Some stories went to the extent that perhaps he was poisoned, some went to the extent that he ate ice cream from Gushungo Dairies. What the doctors think happened is that perhaps he ate some stale food which then means it is really not poison in the sense that the people are trying to allege,” Mushowe said.
However, those close to Mnangagwa have dismissed the theory that Mnangagwa ate “stale food” and are insisting the vice-president suffered minor damages to his liver and kidney due to poisoning.
Chain of events
Mnangagwa left Harare with Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Health minister David Parirenyatwa and his deputy on Saturday August 12 in the morning aboard an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter. He arrived in Gwanda around 10am.
Sources said upon arrival Mnangagwa was looking healthy and he attended the official launch of the Community Information Centre at Gwanda Post Office.
After the launch, Mnangagwa and other delegates went to Phelandaba Stadium for the youth interface rally.
“At 14:06pm Mnangagwa was at the high table while Mugabe arrived a couple of minutes later,” said a government official.
“Proceedings quickly commenced upon the arrival of Mugabe. The high table was served with water and some snacks which included samoosas, ice cream and chicken pieces.”
Sources also said three waiters from State Residences served the front row at the high table. “Those who sit on the right side of the president had a waiter dedicated to them, while those seated on the left side had a waiter of their own. One waiter was serving the president only,” said a source.
Mnangagwa began to complain about 40 minutes after eating the snacks.
“He began to shiver then decided to go to the back of the VVIP tent where he vomited. Parirenyatwa and State security minister Kembo Mohadi were called to the back of the tent,” a source said.
“Parirenyatwa asked for Mnangagwa to go into a ‘holding room’ so that he could be examined. Mnangagwa obliged and went into the room where Parirenyatwa examined him and suspected food poisoning which he said was not a serious issue. Mnangagwa had also eaten fruits at the helicopter.”
Mnangagwa then went back to the high table and after about five minutes he left again and headed to the toilet where he vomited and had a running stomach.
“Parirenyatwa escorted him to the toilet and at this time Mnangagwa was sweating profusely,” said an official.
Sources said Parirenyatwa suggested that Mnangagwa be taken to Gwanda Hospital or Bulawayo for further tests as he was feeling weak.
“Mnangagwa opted to be flown to Gweru to his personal doctor. He was accompanied by Parirenyatwa to Gweru,” the official said.
A source said they arrived in Gweru around 5pm and “Mnangagwa was shivering and experienced memory lapses”.
“His doctor quickly sedated him to ease pressure on his organs as he suspected something more than just food poisoning.”
Between 7pm and 8pm Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga dispatched an air ambulance (from ACE Air & Ambulance Pvt Ltd) to Gweru so that Mnangagwa be moved to the Manyame military hospital with plans to fly him to South Africa.
“Chiwenga — who was later seen at the Hrare International Airport that evening — also flew to Gweru and then accompanied Mnangagwa to Manyame airbase.
“Military doctors took over and conducted basic tests and again sedated him with hopes of flushing out poison traces.”
Sources said by the time he was in Harare, the diarrhoea had stopped but he was still shivering and walking unsteadily.
Sources also said Chiwenga flew to South Africa on Tuesday evening to visit the ailing vice-president who had been accompanied by General’s wife Mary.
South Africa trip
Sources said Mnangagwa wanted to go home on Sunday morning after the military doctors said results of the tests will be known in the next four days.
However, Chiwenga suggested that Mnangagwa be flown to South Africa for further tests to ascertain the nature of the poison he had consumed. Sources also said a private jet (Flight number ZS-SRU) was arranged from South Africa to come fetch Mnangagwa to the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre, where family members say he was told he suffered “minor liver and kidney damages”. Mushowe has dismissed foul play.