In the clearest sign yet of Beijing’s closet support of Vice President, Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga’s alleged bid to takeover as Zimbabwe leader from President Emmerson Mnangagwa this year, come what may, Chiwenga has returned back to China barely a month after returning to the country from the Asian nation for medical treatment, reportedly on a secret private invitation from Chinese president, Xi Jinping, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.
According to high level sources inside the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), the VP’s invitation was allegedly relayed to him by China’s deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang, through foreign affairs minister, Sibusiso Moyo, who met with the Chargé d’Affaires on 12 December 2019 at his Munhumutapa offices.
The disclosures come hot on the heels of former information minister in President Robert Mugabe’s government, Jonathan Moyo, this week revealing on his Twitter handle, that Mnangagwa has not taken his annual leave, and has not been able to leave the country because of a foiled coup in early November last year, which has cost the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director, Aaron Nhepera, his job.
This publication was the first to report on 22 March 2019, that a special delegation of senior Zimbabwean military officials reportedly told Chinese generals that Mnangagwa’s political reign will expire in 2020, a few days prior to former leader Mugabe’s November 2017 coup ouster.
“The president is not himself and is in panic mode,” OPC sources said. “He was made to believe that his deputy is going for a medical review in China, but it has turned out that, the vice president has been invited for a private visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s office. Nobody knows the purpose of the invitation nor the exact date the VP will come back home. So in the president’s eyes the whole medical thing is a political alibi, and we really don’t know what’s going on or what will happen when his deputy returns.”
Mnangagwa recently told congregants attending an annual National Thanksgiving and Dedication Service at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) grounds in Bulawayo, a few days ago, that Chiwenga was back in China for medical review and asked the congregants to pray for the VP.
“I wish that as we pray, we also remember to pray for Vice-President Chiwenga who is back in China for medical review. He will be back in the country soon,” Mnangagwa said.
Another OPC official, who has previously worked in the foreign affairs ministry, said Mnangagwa was “worried” about Chiwenga’s China return, because Beijing is now dealing directly with the VP’s office on Zimbabwe issues, via foreign minister Moyo, instead of the President’s Office.
“China is now dealing directly with VP Chiwenga’s office when it comes to foreign policy issues on Zimbabwe, via minister Moyo’s foreign ministry, instead of going through Moyo’s ministry for direct link with the OPC. Mnangagwa is worried about Chiwenga’s trip back to China, because it is clear it has nothing to do with a medical review. The OPC has also been informed by intelligence operatives at the Zimbabwe Embassy in China, that President Xi Jinping had planned to invite Mnangagwa for a state visit to China last year, but the invitation was cancelled under unclear circumstances, right around the time the VP was flown for medical treatment from South Africa to Beijing in July 2019.”
Moyo has since invited his Chinese counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for an official visit to Zimbabwe this month.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang’s, confirmed the development at a regular press conference in Beijing yesterday.
“Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay official visits to Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea, Burundi and Zimbabwe from Jan. 7 to 13,” said Shuang.
“Wang is visiting at the invitation of Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Djiboutian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mahamudu Ali Youssouf, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, Burundian Foreign Minister Ezechiel Nibigira and Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo.”
Military sources last night said Chiwenga, who reportedly flew out the country on 20 December 2019, aboard a private jet in the middle of a strike by air traffic controllers, is said to have met the Chinese leader on 23 December for “brief private talks”, with another meeting set before the VP returns home. Chiwenga is also reportedly going to meet General Li Zuocheng, who is the inaugural commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Ground Force and current chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission.
“Chiwenga met President Xi Jinping for brief private talks on 23 December 2019,” the sources said. “The meeting was closed to the media, and he is going to meet Jinping again before returning home. We also hear that he is due to meet General Li Zuocheng, a commander of the PLA. General Zuocheng played an important role in facilitating the VP’s medical treatment team of doctors, at the General Hospital of the People’s Liberation Army (PLAGH) in Beijing, when he was terribly sick last year.”
During Chiwenga’s visit for military exchange in 2017, as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander, General Zuocheng, held a welcoming ceremony for Chiwenga and accompanied him to review the honor guard of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
A Zanu PF politburo member and former cabinet minister yesterday confirmed to Spotlight Zimbabwe, that Mnangagwa is frightened about the prospects of China aiding his ouster from power during 2020, and pave way for a Chiwenga presidency.
“What we have at play is a serious political chess game between vaMnangagwa navaGuveya (Chiwenga),” said the politburo member during a telephone interview.
“Mnangagwa is resorting to political tactics to keep the office, while Chiwenga is going the military route, because that is what he knows best. Mnangagwa might be forced out using unseen violence and bloodshed this year, because he is unlikely to bow down to any pressures of resignation or impeachment. Only a military operation will do the job, which is why the involvement of the Chinese and their military behind the scenes in Chiwenga’s corner, is causing trepidation to Mnangagwa and his supporters.”
— Spotlight Zimbabwe