Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga is on the brink of divorcing his wife, ex model Marry Chiwenga, after the pair had a nasty fallout when he was seriously ill and hospitalised in South Africa.
Family members and government officials say the fallout revolved around personal matters related to Marry's behaviour and her attempt to have Chiwenga write a will, in which she would have been the largest beneficiary of the couple's vast estate in the event that he dies.
At the time, most members of Chiwenga's family, as well as government officials, had ruled out the general's hopes of recovery. Senior Zanu PF officials had also begun jostling for his post, while others pushed for him to be dropped from government on the grounds that he was incapacitated.
Chiwenga and Marry have been living separately after the Vice-President moved into another house on arrival from China, where he was hospitalised for four months, before staging a remarkable recovery.
Chiwenga has instructed his lawyer Wilson Manase to handle divorce proceedings and the Zimbabwe Independent understands the matter will be heard soon, possibly by Judge President George Chiweshe who has since received the papers.
Chiweshe is a former Judge Advocate-General in the Zimbabwe National Army. Sources told the Independent he received the divorce papers directly instead of through the Registrar of the High Court to ensure they do not leak.
"The general was livid when the proposal (to write a will) was made. He was weak and emancipated, but summoned all the energy he had to let Marry know his feelings. He accused her of wanting him dead and even suggested that she could be working with his political rivals to poison or bewitch him," a government official said.
"He then barred her from seeing him. When arrangements were made for the VP to be flown to China, she was kept in the dark. The general also made it clear that he did not want to see her while in China and that is the reason why she never visited him in Beijing when he was hospitalised there for four months."
Officials said Chiwenga has not tried to hide his disdain for his wife even in public."That is the reason why Marry was not part of the welcoming party at the Robert Mugabe International Airport when the general returned. It was not a coincidence. It was by design," the official said.
"Marry was also not at the Chiwenga homestead last weekend when the general held a welcome home party. He did not mention her when he was mentioning people who stood by him when he was ill."
In his remarks at the party, Chiwenga paid glowing gratitude to Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro who accompanied him to South Africa, India and China as he sought treatment for an ailment his loyalists link to poisoning.
He also mentioned the aides who stuck by his side during his four-month stay in Beijing as he convalesced.Chiwenga jetted into the country on November 23 and was received at the airport by Chinese embassy officials, his son Richard and other relatives.
Officials revealed Chiwenga did not return to his Borrowdale Brooke home, but chose to stay at one of his nearby properties, which was furnished a few weeks before his arrival.
With the matter set to spill into the courts, sources said, lawyers representing Chiwenga have been instructed to push for a court order barring the media from reporting on the divorce proceedings.
In 2012, Chiwenga, then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, also sought and was granted a court order to gag the media when he was in the process of divorcing Jocelyn, before he married Marry.
A weak and emancipated Chiwenga was airlifted to China in July after President Emmerson Mnangagwa engaged Chinese leader Xi Xinping on his behalf.
He underwent two operations to clear his oesophagus which was blocked resulting in him failing to eat food.
Marry confirmed that she indeed never visited him in China during the time the vice-president was hospitalised, but referred questions to Chiwenga, whom she said was the best person to confirm whether the couple was still staying together.
"You have his number. The VP's number. If you find it you can ask him those questions. He is the best person who can answer that question. Inini handina chekupindura (I have nothing to say). Remember, it is the vice-president who came back. So it is him whom you must ask. "I was here, it was him who was not around. I am sure he will tell you. You know I cannot speak on his behalf. I was not in China, I was here. That is why I said the best person to ask is him. I have nothing to say."
Marry said on the vice-president's recovery "journey", a "lot of things" happened and suggested that she had done her part to assist."A lot of things happened while he was in China, but our journey did not start in China. China was only the last part of the journey. You have to ask him how he got to India, you must ask him. There is someone who initiated all this.
"This also applies to you. If you fall sick who is going to initiate that you are taken to the hospital? Isn't it the person that you stay with? So that is why I am saying it is only fair that you get to speak to him. As I said, I am not the one who was in China. It is the VP who was in China. You should say to him zvanzi nambuya venyu imi ndimi manga muri kuChina vanokupindurayi. (Say to him Marry says you were in China, he should be able to answer you."
Efforts to get a comment from Chiwenga's lawyer, Manase were futile as our calls went unanswered. Sources said Marry tried to mend the relationship several times while Chiwenga was in China, but to no avail. She also tried to visit, but was denied a visa.
Officials say she also tried to mend bridges through emissaries, but her efforts failed.Marry was not at Chiwenga's home when Mnangagwa visited his deputy after his arrival from China.
But, sources said, Marry, together with her four children with the general, was later invited to visit the vice-president."Even though she was not invited when Mnangagwa met with the general, Marry was later summoned to bring the kids to the house so that they could see their father.
"During their visit, which was not characterised by any air of animosity, the couple agreed that they would proceed with their divorce plans. The children were very excited to see their father for the first time in four months," a government official told this newspaper this week.
The Independent understands Chiwenga wants to keep the couple's matrimonial home, which he said was of "sentimental value to him" when he was divorcing Jocylene.
In the face of the looming divorce, sources said Marry has maintained her innocence, distancing herself from allegations that she could have given a hand around reports that the former general was poisoned.
In the aftermath of the November 2017 millitary coup, Marry and Chiwenga developed a rare skin ailment which affected their hands and skin complexion.
Chiwenga's close associates believe he was poisoned by political rivals. The vice-president led the coup, which toppled former president Robert Mugabe and catapulted Mnangagwa to power.
The two's relationship was, however, strained soon after the coup over transitional arrangements, government appointments as well as Chiwenga's presidential ambitions.
When Chiwenga was in the process of divorcing Jocelyn, the veil was lifted on his vast wealth empire consisting of prime land, several residential and industrial stands, expensive jewellery, homes and vehicles among other material possessions.
Before marrying the former general in 2012, Marry was wife to former football star Shingayi Kawondera.In July, Kawondera sued Marry for US$700 000, claiming that she fraudulently obtained a divorce order against him to facilitate her marriage to the then army commander.