Zimbabwe: Chiwenga Return Raises Eyebrows

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (file photo).

The government yesterday made conflicting statements about Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga's return after his four-month-long stay in China where he was receiving treatment.

Chiwenga quietly flew back into the country yesterday and there were no government officials to welcome him at the Robert Mugabe International Airport.

A fit-looking Chiwenga, who appeared to have recovered from an undisclosed ailment, but suspected to be food poisoning, was met at the airport by his son Tawanda, brother Onismo and Chinese deputy ambassador Zhao Boagang.

The VP arrived in Harare shortly after 2am aboard a Chinese plane.

Information secretary Nick Mangwana said there were no government officials towelcome the VP at the airport because his return had not been "announced."

"The VP is back," Mangwana said.

"It wasn't something that was announced in government that he was coming as he was coming from hospital.

"It is just like when he went to hospital, there were no government officials to see him off.

"If he wasn't sent off when he left, why would there be government officials to welcome him."

On the other hand, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's spokesperson George Charamba said his boss does not receive his subordinates at the airport when they return from trips abroad.

Charamba took to Twitter to respond to social media debate about Chiwenga's low key arrival.

"Interesting that well-known opposition twi-voices (sic) seek to teach us how to welcome and love our leaders," he tweeted. "For the record (Mnangagwa), who is head of State and president of Zimbabwe does not - repeat - does not receive his deputy.

"In the same vein, the Chinese ambassador who personifies the Chinese state here in Zimbabwe will not receive a vice president of the state to which he is accredited.

"Protocol does not allow both cases. For the record, President Mnangagwa and his deputy enjoyed daily communication while the VP was away.

Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia later visited Chiwenga at his house in Harare's Borrowdale suburb.

Regis Chikowore, a principal director in the Office of the President and Cabinet said the president was "extremely happy" to see his deputy in good health.

"The president met the vice president and he was extremely happy to see his deputy in good health," he said.

Prior to his return, there were reports that Mnangagwa and Chiwenga had fallen out because of factionalism in Zanu PF. A cabinet reshuffle early this month was linked to the alleged infighting.

Some Zanu PF officials were allegedly pushing for Chiwenga's ouster on the grounds of ill health. The VP, however, seemed to be training his guns on striking doctors and the opposition in an interview with the state controlled media soon after his arrival.

He said there was no need for "others" to have the "Genghis Khan mentality."

Khan was the founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death.

"To the others, it will not help to have that Genghis Khan mentality.

"He wanted to conquer the world and went through the ancient desert. All the horses perished, all the men perished so why would you want to do that?" Chiwenga said

"We have to work, we have the resources-we must utilise them and work and build our country.

"That's the message we want to give our people that it will not help now and again to go on strike. You strike against what? Let's work and build our country."

Doctors at public hospitals have been on strike since September demanding salaries linked to the United States dollar and better working conditions.

Last year, Chiwenga ordered the dismissal of hundreds of nurses that had gone on strike protesting against poor pay.

The VP has been to China, India and South Africa seeking treatment since the beginning of the year.

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