Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday evening hit back at his colleague Phelekezela Mphoko, who wrote a scathing statement on Wednesday, following his remarks that he fell sick in Gwanda after being poisoned during a Zanu PF Youth Interface Rally addressed by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
Mphoko claimed that Mnangagwa had made a U-turn after he told various Zanu PF meetings and President Robert Mugabe that he was not poisoned in the Matabeleland provincial capital.
But Mnangagwa told reporters in Harare that Mphoko was misrepresenting facts for political expediency as he was not food poisoned but poisoned at the Gwanda rally.
“During the Ordinary Session of the Politburo held on 6 September, 2017, and the Ordinary Session of the Central Committee held on 8 September, 2017, I informed the meeting that my doctors had said that I was not food poisoned. I did not state that poison had been ruled out.
“It is most disappointing that a person at the level of my colleague vice president Cde R. P. Mphoko would mis-understand and misrepresent the statements made by His Excellency, the President Cde R. G Mugabe and myself.”
He said it was disturbing that Mphoko’s statement was against the spirit and grain of Zimbabwe’s Constitution.
Mnangagwa said he drew parallels with the late Shuvai Mahofa’s fate in Victoria Falls while attending the National People’s Conference to show that they faced the same problems as they both fell sick at similar events.
“It is indeed factual that I fell ill in Gwanda and was airlifted to Gweru and then to Harare before subsequently being airlifted to South Africa.
“I never said that I was poisoned in Gwanda but that I fell ill in Gwanda. Equally the late national heroine S. B Mahofa fell ill during the 15th National People’s Conference of Zanu PF in Victoria Falls in 2015. She was taken to hospital in Zimbabwe and subsequently to South Africa. Therein is the extent of the similarities of the events which I alluded to during my address (memorial service of Mahofa).”
He further noted that during a briefing with Mr. Mugabe, his medical doctors ruled out food poisoning but confirmed that “indeed poisoning had occurred and that investigations were still in progress.”
Mnangagwa stressed that he issues a statement before the Midlands Presidential Youth Interface Rally in September in which he stated that he did not consume any ice cream in Gwanda from the first family’s Gushungo Dairy.
He noted that he made similar remarks at a Zanu PF Politiburo and Central Committee meetings early September in which he told members that he was not food poisoned, adding that “I did not state that poison had been ruled out.”
The vice president’s statement received some stern rebuke from First Lady Grace Mugabe last night, who addressed a youth meeting in Harare, and Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo.
Mrs. Mugabe said, “You (Mnangagwa) admitted in a meeting that you were not poisoned but you are now going around saying something different … You change your statements depending on your audience.”
She urged Zanu PF youth to avoid these party conflicts.
At the same time, Professor Moyo posted a message on Twitter saying, “This ‘I was poisoned, I was not poisoned’ Mnangagwa statement is an example of desperate dog-whistle politics. Even fools are not fooled.”
Mnangagwa allegedly leads a faction of the ruling party called Team Lacoste while Mrs. Mugabe is said to be the leader of another faction known as Generation 40.
Each faction wants to take control of Zanu PF ahead of President Mugabe’s political exit. The president has already noted that he is not leaving his post.