INFIGHTING in Zanu PF reached fever pitch yesterday when Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa dug in his heels, maintaining that he had fallen ill due to poisoning despite an earlier dismissal of these claims by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Elias Mambo/Tinashe Kairiza/Bernard Mpofu
Mnangagwa, currently feeling the heat from a rival faction within the ruling party, recently fell ill during a rally, fuelling speculation that he had been poisoned. His sympathisers claimed he had been poisoned through ice cream made by President Robert Mugabe’s Gushungo Dairies. He dismissed these allegations, but subtly insists he had been poisoned.
Mnangagwa is leading a faction angling to succeed Mugabe, while Mphoko is backing a group coalescing around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Mnangagwa told the media in the capital during a press briefing, where private media journalists were barred, that his medical doctors, in the presence of Mugabe, had confirmed that he had been poisoned, not food poisoned.
“During the Ordinary Session of the Politburo held on September 6 2017 and the Ordinary Session of the Central Committee held on September 8 2017, I informed the meetings that my doctors had said that I was not food poisoned. I did not state that poison had been ruled out. It is most disappointing that a person at the level of my colleague, Vice-President Cde R .P Mphoko would misunderstand and misrepresent the statements made by his Excellency, the President R.G Mugabe and myself,” Mnangagwa said in a statement which was later broadcast on state-controlled television.
“During the briefing with His Excellency, the President Robert Mugabe, the medical doctors who attended to me ruled out food poisoning, but confirmed that indeed poisoning had occurred and that investigations were underway,” he said.
Mnangagwa added yesterday: “It is further disconcerting that the statement is littered with subjective falsehoods, mischievous perceptions and malicious innuendos written in a language and tone which is disrespectful and contemptuous to my person and indeed, to the office I occupy, that of Vice-President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Party Zanu PF.”
On Tuesday, Mphoko castigated his counterpart in government and party, following remarks delivered by Mnangagwa while presiding at the memorial service of the late Masvingo provincial affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa.
Meanwhile, Mugabe reportedly publicly clashed with his deputy Mnangagwa at the Harare International Airport upon his return from a state visit in neighbouring South Africa.
The public spat emanated from remarks Mnangagwa made in Masvingo while attending Mahofa’s memorial service.
“Mnangagwa questioned why Mphoko had to issue a public statement concerning his health when he could have called him to discuss the issue,” the source said.
“Mnangagwa also wanted to know why Mphoko suggested that he had undermined the authority of the president when the issue of his illness was well-known by the president after doctors gave him an hour-long briefing.
“The heated exchange subsided when Mugabe arrived. However, Mnangagwa went straight to Mugabe to register his displeasure.
“The president did not want Mnangagwa to explain his issue, but instead questioned him the motive of his Masvingo utterances,” said the source, adding: “when Mnangagwa wanted to explain how the Mahofa issue came in, Mugabe did not want to listen.
“While Mnangagwa was explaining his reference to Mahofa, Mugabe, who had lost his temper, saying ‘nonsense, nonsense’ until he got to his vehicle. Mugabe then stopped at his vehicle and gave Mnangagwa a chance.”
Sources said Mnangagwa told Mugabe that he was waiting for his permission to respond and publicise his medical and toxicological reports
“It was at this point that Mugabe said it was not necessary to continue fighting in public. Mugabe told Mnangagwa that such an issue needed to be resolved amicably and not in the public.”
While addressing the Mahofa family and Zanu PF supporters, Mnangagwa opened up on his food poisoning scare, saying he experienced what Mahofa at a Zanu PF conference in 2015 experienced when she was taken ill after a poison scare in Victoria Falls.
“I have come to tell you that what happened to Mai Mahofa in Victoria Falls is what also happened to me. I am making tremendous recovery. Those who wished me dead will be ashamed because when God’s time for one to die is not up, he will not die. I still have many years to live and the truth will come out,” Mnangagwa said.
However, Mphoko on Tuesday night, while he was acting president, responded to Mnangagwa with a scathing statement, accusing his counterpart of lying and undermining Mugabe’s authority.
In a statement, Mphoko alleged that Mnangagwa was also using his poisoning saga to cause tribal divisions for political expedience within Zanu PF. He added that Mnangagwa’s claim was a “calculated” challenge to Mugabe’s “public account that Mnangagwa’s medical doctor ruled out poisoning
“There’s now little doubt, if there ever was any, that there appears to be an agenda to undermine the authority of President Mugabe and to destabilise the country by using lies to fan ethnic tensions for political purposes,” Mphoko said.
In August, Mnangagwa was airlifted to South Africa for urgent medical attention following the poisoning scare at Zanu PF’s youth interface rally in Gwanda.
Mnangagwa last month dismissed speculative reports that he had eaten poisoned ice cream from the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies, although he did not dispute the poisoning narrative.
Meanwhile, in Harare last night, Grace launched an acerbic attack on Mnangagwa, saying the vice-president had crossed the line by accusing the First Family of attempting to poison him.
Grace also said she would not bow down to Mnangagwa’s allies threatening to stage a coup if Mugabe chooses another candidate to succeed him.
“Even these days when false claims are being peddled by politicians, you hear some saying someone has been poisoned by ice cream from Alpha Omega. It’s unfair. That is unfair to say that. Can I prepare just one cup for Mnangagwa, to kill Mnangagwa? I’m the wife of the president. Who is Mnangagwa? Who is he? Who would kill who here?” Grace said during the launch of Empower Bank last night.
“My husband is someone who is very disciplined when it comes to women. He is not a bambazonke (grab everything) type, never ever. He keeps me and me alone. Why would I want to kill someone who was appointed by my husband? It is nonsensical. If politics gets to this stage, it means you have run out of ideas. If you have run out of ideas, go home and retire. It is not proper to say you like the President yet you hate his wife, it’s not possible. I asked you in the Midlands whether the President erred by appointing you.”
Mugabe’s wife also warned the military against using coercion to drum up support for Mnangagwa. “We don’t like people who go around threatening people that if their preferred candidate or Mnangagwa is not elevated to the presidency, we will shoot you. Kill if you can, why aren’t you? We must all agree if the President says he wants to resign. We must all agree as a party over who shall take over. We say no to those who threaten to use bazookas. We are being threatened night and day that if so and so is not appointed (president), we will shoot you. We will not bow down to that pressure, never. You will have to arrest all of us for you to rule,” Grace said.
“We don’t want people who intimidate us. Don’t force people to vote you by threatening. If you choose to stage a coup, no one will recognise you. The AU doesn’t recognise such a government and don’t even dare talk about it. You have to be grateful that President Mugabe is a good man, otherwise some people would have been serving time now. Don’t take that tolerance too far.”