The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), General Constantine Chiwenga, 55, has been flown to China for medical treatment after he recently fell ill in Harare.
The whisky loving four-star General, whose estranged wife Jocelyn is apparently also 'very sick', had to be sent to Beijing after military doctors raised the alarm at his sudden ill-health. SW Radio Africa is reliably informed Chiwenga flew out to China on 7th April.
Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa confirmed to NewsDay on Thursday that the former liberation war fighter was in China for medical attention, saying; 'Yes, I can confirm that Chiwenga went to China to seek medical treatment. What I know is that he had gone for medical checkups, we all go for medical checkups.'
Chiwenga is one of several members of the shadowy Joint Operations Command (JOC) a grouping of service chiefs that has managed to keep Robert Mugabe in power.
JOC is usually under the nominal control of Mnangagwa but is in fact run by Chiwenga, who has boasted that during his long military career, he has been involved in 19 battles and has never lost one.
In the run-up to the 2008 harmonised elections Chiwenga, in what has now become routine for the Junta, ruled out supporting anyone other than Mugabe whom he said had sacrificed a lot for Zimbabwe. Chiwenga has been a faithful Mugabe ally ever since he joined the liberation war in Mozambique in 1973.
He was born in 1956 in Hwedza and attended St Mary's Mission in the area together with Air Marshal Perence Shir. They left school at the same time in Form 3, to join ZANLA in Mozambique.
His liberation war name was Dominic Chinenge and he rose through the ranks to become a provincial commander for Masvingo/Gaza Province, operating mainly in Chivi and Chiredzi. He was later promoted to the High Command in 1978 as the late Josiah Tungamirai's deputy.
In 1981 Chiwenga joined the newly-formed Zimbabwe National Army as an officer. In a 1982 failed suicide attempt he shot himself after failing a promotions exam, but Mugabe promoted him anyway.
In 1994 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and made commander of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). Upon the retirement of General Vitalis Zvinavashe in 2004, he was promoted to the rank of General and Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
When ZANU PF's controversial land reform got into full swing, Chiwenga was one of the first to grab a white farm. In 2002, he and his wife Jocelyn seized control of a major producer of flowers and vegetables near Harare.
According to court testimony Jocelyn told the owner, Roger Staunton, that she had not tasted white blood since 1980 and that she needed just the slightest excuse to kill someone. Both the Chiwenga's are among those barred from travelling to Europe and the United States.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, has also not been in the best of health recently. Chihuri reportedly suffers from hypertension and once collapsed just before the start of a Joint Operations Command (JOC) meeting at State House.