Zimbabwe’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa Picture: AFP Photo/ Alexander Joe

Harare - Rumours were swirling around Zimbabwe late on Saturday that vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa became suddenly ill at a youth rally addressed by President Robert Mugabe in Gwanda, a small town 130km south of second city Bulawayo. And that he was, on Saturday night, flown to hospital in South Africa on a Zimbabwe Airforce plane.

One of his close political associates, Josiah Hungwe was also reportedly ill.

Well connected sources in Zimbabwe say Mnangagwa may have contracted food poisoning earlier in the day.

Others, concerned at the faction fighting within Zanu PF about who will succeed Mugabe when he dies, speculated that Mnangagwa had been poisoned.

This drama - playing out on unofficial media late on Saturday - comes after a difficult week for Mnnangagwa after a Facebook site, known as First TV,  published a 72-minute propaganda video compiled by one of Mnangagwa’s enemies, tertiary education minister Jonathan Moyo.

Moyo, backed by first lady Grace Mugabe and Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, appears to detest Mnangagwa. The video footage created by journalists who previously worked for Moyo on state-controlled newspapers make many allegations against Mnangagwa. 

The video made many accusations against Mnangagwa and was recently presented to the Zanu PF politburo. Mnangagwa has not responded to the allegations.

He has long been associated - along with Mugabe and one or two other currently serving ministers - of being behind the massacres of thousands of opposition supporters from 1983. The opposition was then lead by liberation war hero, Joshua Nkomo, who had to escape Zimbabwe at that time to avoid being assassinated.

Many cabinet ministers have been accused of violence over the years, but Mnangagwa, who has served Mugabe one way or another for more then 50 years, was security minister during those massacres in the Matabeleland provinces from 1983 - 1987.

Mnangagwa  and some colleagues within Mugabe’s present cabinet are also accused of violence against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change which saw hundreds killed, thousands tortured and arrested especailly in the first eight years after it was launched late 1999.

Many businessmen in Zimbabwe say privately they would like to see Mnangagwa succeed Mugabe as leader because they say he understands business. 

Some say he has been enriched by private dealings in gold and other minerals. But all ministers, including Moyo are widely accused of various acts of corruption.

Independent Foreign Service