Zimbabwean Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
Zimbabwean Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

Grace Mugabe’s widely anticipated court appearance has overshadowed the hospitalisation of her rival, vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, still believed to be in a Johannesburg health facility.

Mugabe and Mnangagwa find themselves trapped in Johannesburg — albeit for different reasons — amid a simmering battle for succession: the Zimbabwean first lady is in the country for allegedly assaulting a 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels, at a Sandton hotel on Sunday; Mnangagwa for health reasons.

On Thursday, a handful of people turned up in Harare at the Robert Mugabe Square to hold a prayer vigil for Mnangagwa’s speedy recovery.

Popular preacher and self-proclaimed prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa, founder of United Family International Church, claimed he had given a "prophecy" in April that Mnangagwa would be poisoned.

It has been a week of high political drama in Zimbabwe, which began with Mnangagwa hurriedly leaving a rally in Gwanda, about 120km south of Bulawayo, the second-largest city, while President Robert Mugabe gave the main address.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said in Harare Mnangagwa had suffered from "diarrhoea" and "severe vomiting", but that his condition had improved.

A top government official denied on Thursday food poisoning was the reason Mnangagwa was airlifted to a South African hospital at the weekend.

Christopher Mushohwe, Zimbabwe’s information and broadcasting services minister, confirmed Mnangagwa was still in SA.

"I’m sure the nation knows that he went to SA to see his doctors so that they make sure he is fine. In fact, the doctors have asked him to stay a little bit longer so that they observe his condition, but he is very well. Government is very happy with his recovery," Mushowe said, who rubbished speculation that Mnangagwa had been poisoned and that he fell ill after eating ice-cream from Gushungo Dairy, a farm owned by the Zimbabwean president and his wife.

"He is well. I just wanted to allay fears that some people are getting out of the mischievous social maniacs who throw unfounded stories on social media.… Some stories went to the extent that perhaps he was poisoned … what the doctors think happened is that perhaps he ate some stale food which then means it is really not poison in the sense that people are trying to allege."

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