PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa says he is in “low spirits” as he buried two national heroes while mourning key ally, Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, all in the absence of his two Vice-Presidents who are reportedly down with unspecified illnesses.
Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga and his colleague Kembo Mohadi were yesterday conspicuous by their absence at the burial of Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba, who succumbed to COVID-19, and struggle icon Morton Malianga, raising speculation that the two VPs could also have been hit by the virus that has crippled government work.
Chiwenga was the acting President after taking over from Mohadi in the absence of Mnangagwa, who was on leave, and was supposed to preside over the burial.
But Mnangagwa was forced to cut short his leave to preside over the burial after the death of SB Moyo, and a suspected COVID-19 attack on Chiwenga.
Moyo, who died on Wednesday morning at a private hospital in Harare from COVID-19 complications, was yesterday declared a national hero.
The late Foreign Affairs minister, a retired Lieutenant General, is famed for fronting the coup that toppled the late strongman Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba took to microblogging site Twitter yesterday to say this period had been the most devastating in his career in government and that it was the first to see his boss “low”.
“His Excellency the President, who has been unofficially working from State House, has had to re-assume his official place and role as the sitting Head of State in the wake of repeated tragedies that the pandemic continues to deliver to our nation,” Charamba said.
“Never have I seen the President low. Never, too, have I had to issue out so many sad messages in the nearly four decades I have been in government. It’s just depressing, which is why we all have to mask up, stay at home, maintain social distancing, get tested and isolate.”
Mnangagwa has lost three of his ministers to COVID-19, starting with Perrance Shiri (Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement) in July last year, Gwaradzimba last week and Moyo on Wednesday.
It was not immediately established why Chiwenga skipped the burial when he was supposed to be the acting President.
Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro, who is also Chiwenga’s personal doctor, could not immediately comment on reports that his boss was battling COVID-19, saying he was in a meeting and also not in a position to comment on the matter.
“I am in a meeting. I cannot comment on that. Why can’t you check with his office?” Mangwiro said before hanging up.
Charamba was not picking calls.
There are fears that a number of senior government officials and Cabinet ministers are under the weather due to COVID-19, but government has remained tight-lipped on that.
In his address at the National Heroes’ Acre, Mnangagwa described the burials as “heart-breaking”.
Mnangagwa also described the COVID-19 pandemic as “evil”, but one which has to be conquered.
“Equally, with the current deadly war against this evil COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation, we will win as a united people,” he said.
“The present COVID-19 variant is stronger and spreads much faster, hence we must be more vigilant, disciplined and shift our attitude and behaviour.”
Yesterday’s burial was a low-key event with only a selected few attending.
In a statement on Wednesday, government said there was space for Mnangagwa, the two Vice-Presidents and a few other government officials plus the two families to conform to the World Health Organisations protocols.