By Tendai Kamhungira
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga is back from India where he was receiving treatment for an abdominal ailment, a government official has confirmed.
Chiwenga traveled to India with his wife Marry and Health deputy minister John Mangwiro about two weeks ago.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Mangwiro said they had a safe journey back to the country, adding that Chiwenga had recovered. “He is well and everything is okay,” Mangwiro said, without giving further details.
According to reports from India, Chiwenga’s trip back home was delayed on Friday after the plane, a Boeing 737 with registration mark A6-RJX, developed a problem soon after taking off, forcing it to return to the terminal.
The plane, which is believed to cost $500 000 to charter from India to Zimbabwe, is said to be kitted with medical equipment inside.
Citizens have often castigated government officials for routinely seeking medical help abroad, shunning the local public health system, which has collapsed with hospitals struggling to provide medicines to patients.
Chiwenga was last seen in public on February 5, 2019, when he appeared on national television while attending President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Cabinet meeting. On the same day, he dismissed reports that he had been airlifted to neighbouring South Africa for treatment, castigating the social media for wishing him ill.
“There are determined to hear that I am sick, they want me dead, but that cannot be, I am very fine and well, I am actually doing my job as a politician,” he was quoted saying. Chiwenga is one among a list of Zimbabweans who have been trooping to India for private health care.
India has become popular because of its advanced healthcare system, drawing foreigners from Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, for complex paediatric cardiac surgery or liver transplants — procedures that are not done in their home countries.
They also come from the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America for quick, efficient, and cheap coronary bypasses or orthopaedic procedures.
India ranks among the top 20 of the world’s countries in its private spending, at 4,2 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
In October last year, deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet George Charamba disclosed that Chiwenga was on special diet because of the delicacy of his intestines which had been affected by acids.
“Apparently, you have to give it time to allow internal body tissues to heal both large and small intestines were attacked. But he must also remain calm and rested to ensure that there is no relapse into excessive secretion of acids in the body. He is on a special diet because of the delicacy in his stomach,” Charamba was quoted as saying.
Since leading the coup that toppled former president Robert Mugabe in November 2018, Chiwenga has become a larger-than-life character in the country’s politics.
Despite his domineering political profile which is loved and hated in equal measure, his health has been a source of bother.
The former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander early last year traced his health woes to the days when he orchestrated Mugabe’s fall.
He claimed that he was suffering from “nhuta,” something he claimed caused his skin to lighten and triggered speculation that he was bleaching his skin.
“It was during that time that I fell ill. I had this skin sickness (nhuta) that affected my whole body from beneath my feet to my back and the journalists started saying I was using skin lightening creams, but that was not the case.
“I was sick. I have decided to talk about it because that is what you see, but you should know that everything that happens comes with a price. We then sent everything to South Africa to find out what was causing the sickness, but they failed to treat it.
“It was then that my (late) sister Margaret approached Sister Redemptor (Roman Catholic nun) and was given herbs that I began taking until I was healed. But before I took the medication they also prayed for me,” Chiwenga said at the burial of his sister Margaret.
The 61-year-old ex-soldier has appeared in public with swollen hands and in some instances with a cannula on his hand, and has also shown signs of irritation in public. DailyNews