By Nqobani Ndlovu and Xolisani Ncube
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday left the venue of President Robert Mugabe’s rally in Gwanda in an ambulance and was immediately airlifted to Gweru after he started vomiting amid fears he could have been poisoned.
Several Zanu PF sources last night said he was admitted to a private hospital in the Midlands capital, but this could not be independently verified by the time of going to print.
The VP, who appeared energetic as he chanted Zanu PF slogans before Mugabe’s address, fell ill a few minutes after his 93-year-old boss started speaking at Phelandaba Stadium.
Panic gripped the VIP tent where he was sitting with other top government officials that included fellow Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko and Cabinet ministers, after the senior politician started vomiting.
State Security minister Kembo Mohadi was alerted that the VP was vomiting by a senior Central Intelligence Organisation official before the ambulance crew was summoned.
Security details used the tent to hide the ambulance behind the podium where Mugabe stood to address thousands of people.
The VP was briefly taken out of the venue by Zimbabwe Republic Police ambulance before he returned to his car.
Mnangagwa was then driven to the police headquarters where he took off in a military helicopter.
Zanu PF officials could not confirm last night the cause of Mnangagwa’s illness but some claimed he was in a bad shape.
“He left while the president was still addressing and I understand he was vomiting,” said the source.
“I really don’t know what caused it but he was escorted to the ambulance by minister Mohadi.”
Mohadi claimed he did not know anything about the incident when contacted for comment.
“I know nothing, who told you that I know anything? I am sorry I don’t know anything like that,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo also said he did not know why Mnangagwa left the rally before Mugabe concluded his speech.
“I have no information on what you are saying,” he said. “I am being honest with you my brother, I have no information on what you are asking.”
Tension was high in the VIP tent as ministers avoided greeting each.
Mnangagwa and Mphoko did not shake hands while several ministers in opposing camps were seen ignoring each other.
Mnangagwa had reportedly offered to resign from his two positions as Mugabe’s deputy in government and Zanu PF after he was accused of plotting against the veteran ruler.
Since 2015, two Zanu PF ministers Shuvai Mahofa and Samuel Undenge have survived food poisoning allegedly during party events.
Meanwhile, police and Zanu PF youth militias had a torrid time blocking party supporters from leaving the venue of the rally where Mugabe rambled for over an hour with an un-inspiring speech.
Boredom was clearly apparent among the many at the stadium as Mugabe went on about history, resulting in multitudes trying to leave the venue, only to be stopped by police and Border Gezi youth militias.
Anti-riot police had to be called in at one of the gates facing Jahunda township as tensions boiled over with police threatening to beat up anyone who dared to leave.
“You cannot leave the stadium while the president is still addressing. No one is going to be allowed to leave,” one of the anti-riot police officers told the angry crowd who wanted to leave the stadium.
Mugabe told the rally that his wife, Grace did not attend the rally as she had gone to South Africa to receive medical treatment after her leg was accidentally run-over by a car at the Harare International airport recently.
“She went to South Africa to seek treatment for her knee injury. She was saying doctors are still attending to her,” Mugabe said, adding the First Lady was expected back home yesterday or anytime from today.
Mugabe also said he did not understand why Zapu leader, Dumiso Dabengwa quit Zanu PF in 2008.
Dabengwa quit Zanu PF to revive Zapu saying they had been frustrated in the ruling party, and said this meant the end of a Unity Accord signed in 1987 to end the Matabeleland mass killings that left over 20 000 civilians’ dead, according to the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justicr (CCJP).
“I don’t know why he (Dabengwa) has done what he has done and left. We worked with him as a youth until he matured to become a leader,” Mugabe said.
He said did not say much about his succession, a departure from his previous addresses where he attacked the military for meddling in Zanu PF affairs.