Zimbabwean Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga showed up for a cabinet meeting chaired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday.
Chiyangwa’s appearance at the cabinet meeting was the first public appearance after the rumour mill went on overdrive this past weekend. Social media was awash with news that he was receiving medical treatment in South Africa.
A picture of Chiwenga at the cabinet meeting was widely shared on social media today. This comes after several days of speculation that he was in Cape Town undergoing “emergency medical treatment”.
Curiously there was no official government response to media reports of the vice-president’s poor health, nor was there any refutal of his rumoured trip to South Africa.
Speculation over Chiwenga’s whereabouts intensified after the former army general – who led a coup in November 2017 against deposed former strongman Robert Mugabe – also missed a “thank you” rally held by the ruling Zanu-PF in Mount Darwin at the weekend. Second vice-president Kembo Mohadi addressed the rally instead.
Some Zimbabweans gathered outside Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town on Monday to protest against Chiwenga receiving treatment there. They called for him to be sent back home for treatment at one of Zimbabwe’s public hospitals. The protesters also highlighted the dilapidated state of hospitals and the collapsed health delivery system in Zimbabwe.
However, a statement issued by Groote Schuur Hospital denied that Chiwenga was a patient there. Groote Schuur spokesperson Alaric Jacobs confirmed that the Zimbabwean vice-president “was not and currently is not an in-patient at the hospital”.
Some political observers have speculated that there is an emerging rift between Chiwenga and Mnangagwa which is splitting ZANU-PF.
However, President Mnangagwa has denied that there was a rift between him and Chiwenga, saying he has yet to be shown evidence.
“I have known Chiwenga and his colleagues [in the military] since the struggle years. We are comrades and understand each other better than you think,” said Mnangagwa.