AILING Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, pictured, was in fact airlifted to China on Sunday, as health woes continue to dog the powerful former military commander.
This comes after the Daily News reported exclusively in its Monday edition that Chiwenga was once again not feeling well, and that he had been ordered by his doctors to take a rest.
It also comes after he missed two important events, including a field day that was hosted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his Kwekwe farm — triggering speculation that there was bad blood between the two men.
Chiwenga now becomes the first high profile figure to fly abroad since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus pandemic — which has grounded government bigwigs over the past few months, including Mnangagwa.
The strong-willed VP, who played a central role in the ouster from power of the late former president Robert Mugabe, left Harare on Sunday afternoon aboard a hired private plane that is often used by the country’s presidium — heading for China which has suffered the most from the coronavirus outbreak.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that Chiwenga had indeed been flown to China.
“I can confirm that the vice president left for China for his medical check-up.
“Obviously we can’t say how long that will take because that will depend entirely on what experts say. But he is out of the country,” he said.
On Sunday, Charamba had also confirmed to the Daily News that Chiwenga was not feeling well, and that he had taken some days off from his busy work schedule, to rest.
“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. He wanted a bit of rest … he is now 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. It is nonsense,” Charamba said.
The 63-year-old retired army general — who led the stunning November 2017 military coup which toppled Mugabe from power — was first taken seriously ill in July last year, resulting in him being airlifted to South Africa, first, and later to China for treatment, where spent five months.
Eyebrows were later raised when Chiwenga returned home in a Chinese private jet, whereupon he was also welcomed back by Chinese deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang — with senior government officials conspicuous by their absence.
Since leading the coup that toppled Mugabe, 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 18 months — 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”, something he claimed 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.
“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,” Chiwenga said at the burial of his sister Margaret.
After his return from China, Chiwenga also told people who gathered 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 to 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 then.