MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has fallen sick and Sunday failed to attend a party rally where a crowd of about 10 000 waited for hours for his much talked about Africa Day address at the Zimbabwe Grounds.
Party organising secretary Nelson Chamisa allowed proceedings to carry on until well after 3pm when he broke the news to a disappointed crowd the charismatic leader would not be available for the star rally.
Chamisa said his boss had been instructed by his doctor to take a rest over an undisclosed ailment although party sources said the embattled leader was down with malaria.
His announcement was met with angry murmurs from a crowd that had waited patiently since morning for the address which Tsvangirai had planned to give his thoughts on Africa's teething problems.
In an apparent attempt to empathize with the crowd, Chamisa said he had pleaded with the veteran opposition leader to show courtesy to his loyal supporters by making a short appearance at the venue but the doctor insisted if they still wanted to secure him as future president of the country, they must be patient enough to allow him time to mend.
But his appeals were drowned in grumbles from the crowd.
"Ndirikukumbirawo hama dzadiwa kuti munzwisise, hatingaronge musangano mukuru kudayi kuti tikutsamwiseyi (I plead with you dearly. We would not plan for such a big meeting to deliberately disappoint you)," Chamisa said.
"We don't organise disappointment, we don't mobilise disappointment. But when extenuating circumstances are so contrary to our wishes, there is nothing we can do."
Tsvangirai failed to make it ... Nelson Chamisa appeals with supporters to understand
After his appeal, a significant part of the crowd started dispersing while those who remained behind were addressed by acting party secretary general Tapiwa Mashakada, who stood in for Tsvangirai.
Luke Tamborinyoka, spokesperson to the former Prime Minister also repeated Chamisa's remarks.
"All I can tell you is that we have received a message from the President's doctor that he can't come; he needs to rest," Tamborinyoka told journalists on the sidelines of the rally.
"It is important for his health that he rests and cannot come here. It's on the doctor's advice. I think you must understand the delicacy of the matter."
Tamborinyoka refused to disclose the nature of his boss's ailment although he said "it was certainly not malaria".
Tsvangirai has in the past few months been conducting countrywide rallies which were seen as a visibility campaign at a time party hawks led by "expelled" MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti were fighting to oust him as party leader.
Back at home, he has been having a rocky marital life with his now estranged wife, Elizabeth Macheka.
Party guardians ... Douglas Mwonzora introduces members of the Guardian Council