VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly avoided using his official VP’s office at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare on security grounds following a suspected cyanide poisoning attack last December which left his secretary hospitalised for months, it has been reported.
Party insiders told NewsDay that the incident had scared Mnangagwa who suspects that the cyanide attack was targetted at him amid speculative reports that it was an inside job. Mnangagwa, according to party sources, now hardly visits the party headquarters and when he does he will be heading to President Robert Mugabe’s office for briefings.
But Mnangagwa yesterday rubbished the reports as mischievous.
“I am using the office just that it has been undergoing renovations for some time. First to be renovated was the office being used by Vice-President (Phelekezela) Mphoko and he has since fully moved in and now they are working on mine. Whoever told you is misleading,” Mnangagwa said.
“Don’t listen to your drunken friends. I have three offices by the way, I use the one at the Ministry of Justice and I also use the one which was occupied by Amai (Joice) Mujuru at Munhumutapa Building. So, I have enough offices to use. Even on Friday I was at party HQ and I was in my office.”
However, party sources insisted that Mnangagwa was reluctant to move into his allocated VP’s office at the party headquarters for fear of being poisoned or bewitched.
“He is not using his VP office, he does not want to go there probably he fears that he could be bewitched or poisoned. Zanu PF officials are very suspicious of each other and some fear to lose their posts through use of juju by their rivals,” a party insider said.
Unknown assailants last year broke into Mnangagwa’s party office when he was still secretary for legal affairs and laced a deadly poisonous substance causing his secretary to be hospitalised at a private hospital in Harare after she inhaled the fumes.
The alleged attack happened on the eve of Mnangagwa’s appointment replacing Mujuru who had been axed from both her party and government on allegations of plotting to dethrone Mugabe. The contentious office, located in the 12th floor, used to be occupied by Mujuru during her 10-year tenure as party Vice-President and second secretary.
Mphoko has since taken occupation of his party office in the same floor.
Party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said he was unaware of the development and referred all questions to Mnangagwa’s office.
“Honestly, I don’t know if he is using his office or not, how would I know? Ask his office or personal assistant or ask him directly. I don’t know which office he is using,” Khaya Moyo said.
Results of police investigations into the suspected attack have not yet been made public. Both national police spokespersons Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba and her deputy Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi were unavailable for comment.
Khaya Moyo said he was not aware how much ground police had covered in their investigations into the matter.
“Ask the Minister of Home Affairs, Cde Ignatius Chombo on that. In have nothing to say,” he said.
Chombo who is also party secretary for administration said he was unaware whether Mnangagwa was using his Zanu PF office or not.
Chombo said: “I really don’t know because even I usually use my ministerial office to do party work. I just go there and don’t spend much time. On the issue of investigations into the case talk to Cde Kembo Mohadi who is the secretary for security.”
Mohadi could not be reached for comment.
This is not the first time that top Zanu PF officials have refused to occupy either an office or house previously occupied by their predecessors Mphoko early this year reportedly refused to occupy an office that was used by late Vice-Presidents John Nkomo and Joseph Msika fearing they were “haunted”. Instead he “displaced” Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula.
Mphoko’s wife Laurinda in January this year reportedly turned down three upmarket residences, among them a $3 million mansion in Harare’s leafy Ballantyne Park suburb on the grounds that the house was “too small” for a person of the VP’s stature.
Mphoko, who is also responsible for National Healing and Reconcilliation department, was initially scheduled to move into a government house left vacant by the late Msika in Mandara, but his wife allegedly vehemently refused, saying she wanted a house of their own choice.
The VP has already clocked over 307 days booked in a five-star hotel in Harare as government has not yet secured a suitable house for him.
Superstition and use of juju is widespread in Zimbabwean culture, with Mugabe last year publicly accusing Mujuru of hiring sorcerers from Nigeria to bewitch him and take over his post.
A devout Christian, Mujuru denied the allegations, but was nevertheless removed from office and fired from the ruling party on allegations of engaging in witchcraft, among other accusations.