PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday led Zanu-PF bigwigs in castigating social media trolls roundly for having falsely spread rumours that Vice President Constantino Chiwenga had died during the time he was gravely ill.
Chiwenga was at the time hospitalised at a Chinese health facility for four months undergoing treatment for an undisclosed ailment before he returned to Zimbabwe last month.
Yesterday, the former military commander was the centre of attraction at the ongoing Zanu-PF annual conference — with speaker after speaker saying they were relieved that he had made such a remarkable recovery, which they said had shamed social media trolls.
"Before I deliver my speech, I would like to thank God and our ancestors for protecting Vice President Chiwenga. I do not know how many times he was declared dead on social media.
"He died and died again, but we are happy that he is here with us today. You have seen him too," Mnangagwa said as he started his address to the gathered Zanu-PF delegates.
Speaking earlier, Zanu-PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri also lavished praise on Chiwenga before telling the delegates that the party's leaders were united.
"Let me thank the Almighty God for protecting this servant worker and restoring his health at his most difficult time.
"It was not only difficult for him and his family, but for the whole nation and the party at large. Our three leaders showed us that they are united.
"There were social media reports suggesting that our leaders are fighting. It's not true, they are united," Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
Chiefs' Council president, Fortune Charumbira, said ahead of Chiwenga's return from China, speculation was rife that he would be coming back to remove Mnangagwa from power.
"We are happy that you are working together because we had heard through social media that when the VP returned some things were going to happen.
"But I saw ... that it is not true. You are working as a united team," he said.
And acting in tune with this sentiment, Chiwenga enthusiastically chanted pro-Mnangagwa slogans when he took to the podium — with his speech also replete with praises for the 77-year-old Zanu-PF leader.
Since he led the coup that toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017, Chiwenga has been a larger-than-life character in the country's body politic.
However, his health has been a source of concern over the past 18 months. Last year the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander traced his health woes to the days when he orchestrated Mugabe's fall.
Before that he had claimed to be suffering from "nhuta," which he claimed caused his complexion to lighten triggering speculation that he was bleaching his skin.
"It was during that time (the coup days) that I fell ill. I had this skin sickness (nhuta) that affected my whole body from beneath my feet to my back and journalists started saying I was using skin lightening creams.
"But that was not the case. I was sick. I have decided to talk about it because that is what you see ... but you should know that everything that happens comes with a price.
"We then sent everything to South Africa to find out what was causing the sickness, but they failed to treat it. It was then that my (late) sister Margaret approached Sister Redemptor (Roman Catholic nun) and was given herbs that I began taking until I was healed.
"But before I took the medication, they also prayed for me," Chiwenga said at the burial of his sister Margaret.