ON August 11, 2017, at a rally in Gwanda, the then Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa fell ill, allegedly after eating ice cream which had been poisoned and spent over a week in South Africa under treatment.
Reports at the time suggested that the South African doctors discovered that Mnangagwa had consumed a potent non-radioactive poison which caused minor liver damage requiring surgery.
At the time, the governing Zanu PF had been battling to contain tensions within the party between rival groups vying to succeed the late former leader Robert Mugabe with Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe allegedly leading two distinct factions. Three months later, Mugabe was gone and Mnangagwa assumed the throne.
The party is in a tense moment again, and this time the factions allegedly pit Mnangagwa against his deputy Constantino Chiwenga for the heart and soul of the party in the elections to choose district co-ordinating committee members.
With its hegemony guaranteed after laying waste to the pesky opposition fronted by Nelson Chamisa, and installing its own preferred and pliant antagonist in Thokozani Khupe in his stead, the only game in town is Zanu PF and the fight for seats at the top table is getting intense.
Zanu PF’s Game of Thrones will claim victims and the drama will play out in the public domain until the victor emerges.
So, what do you make of the case of the Zanu PF political commissar and Defence deputy minister Victor Matemadanda who was hospitalised after falling ill on November 14, displaying symptoms of “itchiness of eyes, sweating profusely, swelling of the body and vomiting badly,” according to acting party spokesman Patrick Chinamasa.
The deputy minister told journalists that he could have been poisoned during last week’s provincial co-ordinating committee meeting in Marondera, a function which was also attended by Mnangagwa.
This time it was not ice cream, but allegedly some powder which made him “instantly dizzy, confused and ill”.
Political commissars in Zanu PF lead its ideological thrust and organisation and very few previous occupants of the position have walked away voluntarily. Three of the most recent, Moven Mahachi, Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika died in accidents while Webster Shamu has been shunted to the periphery and Saviour Kasukuwere is in self-imposed exile after fleeing to South Africa when the military removed Mugabe in November 2017.
Engelbert Rugeje, who replaced him after the coup, was removed after the elections. According to Matemadanda, there are elements within the party that want him out of the position, dead or alive and were seen to “celebrate” when it appeared that he was dying from the suspected “poisoning”.
Zanu PF clearly has form and those who choose to play its Game of Thrones must know that the ultimate price is not beyond paying.