Constantino Chiwenga pledged loyalty to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, attacked the opposition as “gangsters” and suggested government workers had no right to strike in his first interview after returning home from China where he underwent medical treatment for four months.
The vice president flew home early Saturday in a Chinese government jet, appearing sprightly and healthier than when he was last publicly seen in May.
“I feel very good and I want to thank all the Zimbabweans for their prayers whilst I was away… I really appreciate it,” Chiwenga said.
The treatment had gone “extremely well” and he was “much, much better.”
He did not say what he was being treated for, although it has been reported that he was poisoned and underwent surgery on his oesophagus.
“I think everything that was possible was done, and I’m now raring to go and join the team to build our country,” Chiwenga said.
Many Zimbabweans despairing over the country’s economic collapse were waiting to hear from the man who, as army general, led the military coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe in 2017.
Reports of sharp disagreements between Chiwenga and Mnangagwa have persisted for months, with the former army chief – touted as Mnangagwa’s successor – said to be insistent that the Zanu PF leader must serve one term and handover the leadership, if not earlier.
But Chiwenga betrayed no such conflict when he spoke to reporters.
“To our leadership, let’s all work together to achieve the vision which the president gave for 2030. Let’s make sure that that vision the president has got, and that wisdom the Almighty has given him, let’s work with him tirelessly to make sure that everything is achieved,” Chiwenga said, speaking from the VIP lounge of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport flanked by deputy Chinese ambassador, Zhao Baogang.
Referring to the opposition as “others”, Chiwenga said “it would not help to have that gangster mentality” – an apparent reference to MDC attempts to stage nationwide protests against the deteriorating economic situation.
Chiwenga claimed the MDC was not a superior alternative to Zanu PF, saying they have been controlling urban municipalities for many years, but service delivery had not improved.
“Why haven’t we seen an improvement, if they’re so good? They’re not doing this for the good of our people, but to destroy our people. So, let’s leave that mentality. That mentality should leave their minds as quickly as possible,” he said.
He also maintained his hard-line stance on industrial action by government workers.
“It will not help to every now and again go on strike. Strike against what? Let’s work, and let’s build our economy,” he said.
The government recently fired over 400 doctors who have been on strike demanding better pay since September. Other government workers like nurses and teachers now work two days per week.
When government workers attempted to hand over a petition to the government early this month, police blocked their march.
Chiwenga was driven to his Chisipite home from the airport, avoiding the Borrowdale home he shares with his wife, Mary, who was not at the airport to welcome him.
ZimLive reported in August that Chiwenga had banned Mary from visiting him in China after a fallout.
Chiwenga, gravely-ill in a South African hospital at the end of June, was furious after Mary requested him to legally marry her.
The “death-bed” marriage request reportedly infuriated Chiwenga, who had already received several briefings about his wife’s alleged infidelity and even suspicions that she was behind his mystery illness.
One of those infidelity allegations, ZimLive understands, was that the former model was cheating on Chiwenga with a Congolese man who was Mary’s hairdresser. The man was later deported.
Chiwenga left Mary in South Africa when he was flown to China in July, and cut all communications.
On Saturday afternoon, the vice president was visited by Mnangagwa and his wife, Auxillia. The two men shared a bear hug and appeared delighted to see each other.
Chiwenga then flew by helicopter to his rural home in Wedza, where his extended family was expected to conduct some traditional rituals “thanking the ancestors for his healing”, a source said.
The vice president has told aides he wishes to visit former president Robert Mugabe’s widow, Grace, to pay his condolences following his death on September 6. Chiwenga was unable to attend the funeral due to his treatment.