Monday 23 September 2019

Restaurants out for Mnangagwa over fears of poison

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Photo
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Photo

Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa is so afraid of being poisoned by rivals that he no longer eats in public, sources have said.

The extreme precautions being taken emerged as Zimbabwe prepared for the funeral of Robert Mugabe, its former liberator whose 37-year rule left a legacy of grinding poverty and vicious political in-fighting.

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It underscores the paranoia at the highest level and the fears of a coup less than two years after Mugabe was ejected by the military-backed current regime.

The body of Mugabe, who died in Singapore last week aged 95, was due to be flown back to Zimbabwe this weekend for burial in the National Heroes Acre - a graveyard for the heroes of the struggle against white rule built by North Korean architects.

There was scant evidence of mourning in the capital Harare yesterday.

Mnangagwa seized power in a bloodless coup from Mr Mugabe in November 2017 just five months after Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned during a rally in southern Zimbabwe causing him to be airlifted to South Africa for emergency treatment. Rumours abounded that he had been poisoned by an ice cream from a dairy owned by Grace Mugabe, the former first lady of Zimbabwe who was widely believed to be plotting her own ascent to power. Grace Mugabe strenuously denied the accusations at the time.

Since taking office, Mnangagwa has done nothing to arrest Zimbabwe's economic slide. His fears are understood to have been heightened in July after his vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, fell ill and was flown to China for emergency treatment.

"Chinese contacts have told us that Chiwenga is being treated for poisoning in China but they have not given us the name of the substance. We are told he is unlikely to survive," said a family source.

A highly-placed source said Mnangagwa had decided to stop eating at public engagements in the last two months, not long after Chiwenga was taken ill. "He no longer goes to restaurants," added a second well-informed source in Harare last night.

"Sometimes he goes to the OK Bazaars for takeaway food, as that is random, and he will eat that food and sometimes from other takeaways."


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