Mary-Kate Kahari/Malvin Motsi
CAPE TOWN/HARARE– The power tussle between President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his deputy, Vice President Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, to gain control of the country has reached boiling point, amid reports that Chiwenga has all but put Mnangagwa under virtual military house arrest, as indications of the president’s embarassing exit from office continue to mount, Spotlight Zimbabwe, can reveal.
The Office of the President and Cabinet, in a tacit admission of Mnangagwa’s involuntary confinement to the country, despite taking his annual leave, in a statement on Wednesday said Mnangagwa had began his three-week annual leave, but will remain in the country while Chiwenga and VP Kembo Mohadi, take turns to run government business.
Chiwenga returned from China last Saturday, where he was undergoing a medical review, and is also however thought to have been invited to Beijing for a secret private visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Details of Chiwenga’s meeting with Jinping remain shrouded in mystery, as Chinese media was reportedly slapped with a blackout on covering the visit.
“The Office of the President and Cabinet wishes to advise that His Excellency the President, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa, has started his annual vacation which runs for the next three weeks until the end of the month,” reads the OPC statement signed by acting chief secretary of cabinet and Mnangagwa’s spokesman, George Charamba.
“During this period, Honourable Vice Presidents General (Rid) Dr C.G.D.N. Chiwenga and Colonel (Rid) Cde K.C.D. Mohadi, will take turns to act in his place, starting with Honourable Vice President Chiwenga. The President will spend his vacation in the country.”
Senior government officials close to the state security ministry, said security minister, Owen Ncube’s office, has advised Mnangagwa to remain in the country and avoid foreign trips and summits “indefinitely” as he was now under virtual military house arrest from VP Chiwenga’s faction functionaries running the army and air force, who are still bent on staging a putsch against him.
“There is an eyes-only report which minister Ncube recently presented to Mnangagwa, when the two met at his farm in Kwekwe before Christmas,” the officials said.
“The minister warned Mnangagwa against leaving the country, because the possiblilities of a coup against him are now stronger and more threatening than before. Key elements of the president’s security provided by the presidential guard and air force have been compromised, and Mnangagwa now relies heavily on the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) for protection and his daily movements. He (Mnangagwa) has literally been put under virtual military house arrest by Chiwenga according to the CIO, because the army and air force are now fully aligned to his faction. They have sealed and gained control of our national borders and airspace with help from Chinese military experts.”
Zimbabwe was hit by an aviation systems crisis last November, which temporarily shutdown the country’s airspace, causing rattles among security chiefs.
Chiwenga is reported to have flown out of the country, on his latest visit to China aboard a private jet on December 20, 2019 in the middle of a strike by air traffic controllers.
On the same day Chiwenga left for the Far East, the Chinese government pledged continuous support for Zimbabwe’s aviation industry and capacity development, through one of their diplomats in the capital.
Speaking at a Bilateral Training Seminar on aviation held in Harare, Chen Ning, the economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese Embassy, emphasized that the Chinese government will actively assist Zimbabwe in its efforts to restore the development of the country’s civil aviation industry.
“We will promote Chinese airlines to open direct links to Zimbabwe, continue to deepen bilateral aviation cooperation between China and Zimbabwe, provide human resources training in the field of civil aviation for Zimbabwe,” he said.
“From the 1990s to the present, the Chinese government has financed more than 4,900 Zimbabwean officers and specialists to attend seminars and training courses in China,” Chen said according to news agency Xinhua.
Chiwenga is now expected to finish off Mnangagwa’s term, and will receive a Chinese bailout to stabilise the economy until 2023, when a civilian leader and successor of his choice, with a leaning towards Beijing is expected to takeover, army sources have said.
Zimbabwe’s military placed the late founding President Robert Mugabe under house arrest in November 2017 during the coup that ended his almost four decade rule.
Rumours and speculation about Mnangagwa being under house arrest, have also been rife since he assumed power two years ago.
In May 2019, an unverified audio message went viral and circulated among Zimbabweans on social media, alleging that Mnangagwa was under house arrest and being pressured to resign, by the army.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman and speech writer, Charamba, was unavailable for comment last night, as his mobile phone was switched off.