LINGERING health concerns forced Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, pictured, to abandon his State duties last week, compelling his doctors to order him to rest at home, the Daily News can reveal.
This comes as speculation and conspiracy theories swelled last week after the powerful VP failed to attend a field day that was hosted at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s farm in Kwekwe.
It also comes as Chiwenga is embroiled in an acrimonious divorce with his ex-model wife Marry — whom he has stunningly accused of attempting to kill him last year, during the time he was hospitalised at a top South African hospital.
Called for a comment, presidential spokeperson George Charamba confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that the VP had “temporarily taken leave of absence on the advice of his doctors”.
“What I know is that he complained of fatigue and is resting at home. He is in the country. He was not feeling too well and he wanted a bit of rest … that is the real issue.
“Now, he is much, much better. I spoke to him and he is doing well, not that speculation that there is bad blood between him and the president. That is nonsense,” he said.
Although the former military commander — who spent the better part of last year in hospital in China — had appeared fit and well last Tuesday, when he attended the weekly Cabinet meeting and a subsequent function at State House, it later emerged that he was “under the weather”.
This saw him failing to attend the field day at Mnangagwa’s Precabe Farm in Kwekwe on Thursday, where he was billed to be the guest of honour.
Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri ended up standing in for him.
Chiwenga was also conspicuously absent during a handover ceremony of model houses to victims of Cyclone Idai in Chivhu, where he was represented by the minister of Agriculture, Perrance Shiri.
The 63-year-old retired army general — who led the dramatic November 2017 military coup which toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe from his long and ruinous tenure in power — was taken ill in July last year, before being airlifted to South Africa first, and then to China where he spent 123 days in hospital.
He returned home on November 23 last year, looking remarkably recovered, just before the ruling Zanu PF held its annual conference in Goromonzi.
Mnangagwa later met Chiwenga at his private residence the same day, with the two men appearing to be on very good terms despite the continuing speculation about their relationship.
“He has returned. He is looking strong and he is very clear, raring to go … my colleague is back to assist me on national projects.
“I am not concerned about him resuming duty. My concern is on his health, that he has recovered. He is strong. That is my concern.
“Even if he resumes duty, he should do light work and incrementally … Ukamuona unoona kuti munhu anechiedza, akachena kumeso (if you see him you will notice that he has recovered),” Mnangagwa said then.
On his part, Chiwenga said he was grateful that Mnangagwa had facilitated his medical treatment in China.
“Up to yesterday, from the time I left, I had spent 123 days in hospital. When I got there it was the 21st of July and I got my discharge certificate later on after 123 days.
“I feel strong and I am raring to go to work … Everything possible was done. They left no stone unturned … I am very fit and happy.
“Once again I want to thank the president. He didn’t act as the president, but acted as my brother to ensure that I survived,” Chiwenga said.
He added that if Mnangagwa had not intervened “I could have been history by now”.
Since leading the coup that toppled Mugabe from power, Chiwenga has been a larger-than-life character in the country’s body politic.
However, his health has been a source of concern over the past two years — with the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander tracing his physical woes in 2018 to the days when he orchestrated Mugabe’s fall.
At one time, he said he was suffering from “nhuta”, which he claimed had caused his complexion to lighten — triggering speculation that he was bleaching his skin.
“It was during that time (the coup days) that I fell ill. I had this skin sickness (nhuta) that affected my whole body from beneath my feet to my back, and the journalists started saying I was using skin lightening creams.
“But that was not the case. I was sick. I have decided to talk about it because that is what you see … but you should know that everything that happens comes with a price.
“We then sent everything to South Africa to find out what was causing the sickness, but they failed to treat it,” Chiwenga said.
“It was then that my (late) sister Margaret approached Sister Redemptor (Roman Catholic nun) and was given herbs that I began taking until I was healed.
“But before I took the medication, they also prayed for me,” he said at the burial of Margaret.
After his return from his lengthy treatment in China, Chiwenga also told people at his Wedza rural home that he had undergone treatment for idiopathic oesophageal stricture.
“I was telling colleagues that I spent close to six months without seeing the sun. I only saw it this last Saturday upon returning home,” he said.
“I want to thank you all for your prayers. Those prayers made me survive.
“Since I started falling sick in October last year, there were not many who thought I would heal completely. There were not many who thought I would be standing before you like this.
“The sickness is called idiopathic oesophageal stricture. It means that you cannot take in food and also you cannot even vomit.
“It involves blocking of the oesophagus and I spent a lot of time in the intensive care unit,” Chiwenga said.
Meanwhile, the VP has also stunningly accused his wife Marry of allegedly wanting to kill him in June last year, while he was gravely ill in a top South African hospital.
Marry has denied the allegations, going on to make her own stunning counter-claims.