By Noel Tshuma
VICE President Constantino Chiwenga arrived in Harare on Saturday, was received at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by Chinese Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhao Boagang in cryptic scenes as the mystery around his relationship with President Emmerson Mnangagwa deepened.
However even more mysterious was the continuing absence of Chiwenga’s wife Marry who reportedly was attending a relative’s funeral in Dema on Friday but was nowhere to be seen at the airport when the Vice President touched down or at home when Mnangagwa visited.
While rumours continue to circulate of a growing rift between Mnangagwa and his erstwhile comrade Chiwenga the power behind the November 2017 coup that catapulted him to power, the Zanu PF leader showed up his wife in tow at his deputy’s home just few hours after his arrival.
A short video of the two began circulating on social media in a bear-hug apparently happy to see each other half a year after Chiwenga was whisked away to China for treatment.
First Lady Auxilia was on Mnangagwa’s side but Marry as would have been expected was not at home or at least did not appear in any of the pictures or video that circulated.
In October nEWS263zim.com broke the news that Chiwenga had banned his wife from visiting him in the Chinese military hospital in which he was being treated.
Insiders at the time said Chiwenga suspected his wife of “leaking confidential information about his health to his political enemies” who ironically included Mnangagwa.
At some point early this year Chiwenga and his wife seemed to have been suffering from the same disease that caused the Vice President to lose his black pigmentation and his wife to develop sores “all over her body.”
Chiwenga suggested witchcraft or some sort of poisoning associated with the coup.
Only his two sisters and daughter who lives in Hong Kong were allowed as the Vice President reportedly cut communication even with Mnangagwa including rejecting State security details assigned to him.
St the airport, Chiwenga was received by his son Tawanda and brother Onesimo as well as close associates.
After meeting Mnangagwa at home he was flown in a helicopter to his Wedza rural home with indications he is supposed to visit former President Robert Mugabe’s home either in Harare or Kutama to pay his condolences to his widow and former First Lady Grace.
“He has gone to his rural home. This was always part of his plans as an African maybe to pay tribute to his ancestors for saving his life.
“Sunday the VP is expected to visit the Mugabe family to pay his condolences following the passing away of former President Mugabe in September. He really wanted to be here to mourn him by it was not possible at the time,” a close Chiwenga aide said.
But Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba claimed Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were in constant touch and the President according to protocol could not have waited for his deputy at the airport.
“The President will meet and welcome his deputy in the appropriate way and setting. In the meantime all well-meaning Zimbabweans rejoice that Vice President Chiwenga is back and looks fit,” said Charamba on Twitter apparently responding to social media questions on why Mnangagwa had not been on hand to receive Chiwenga at the airport.
As for the presence of the Chinese deputy envoy to Harare, Charamba said: “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.”
There have been claims the Chinese are angry with Mnangagwa especially over his “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra and the issue seems to have turned pear-shaped after Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube understated China’s contributory donations to Zimbabwe by a whooping US$133 million in his 2020 budget statement.
The Chinese embassy protested immediately and Ncube was forced to call for a press conference on arrival from the Middle East early this week to clarify the issue amid indications meetings had been held behind the scenes to pacify the Asians.