HARARE – President Emmeson Mnangagwa cancelled his state visit to Cuba due to bad weather, his spokesman said on Sunday amid swelling rumours that acting president Constantino Chiwenga is unwell.
Mnangagwa travelled to New York on September 19 for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, circumventing personal travel sanctions to the United States.
Cuba’s foreign ministry had announced that the 80-year-old would visit Havana on a state visit from Friday, September 23, to Sunday, September 26. Mnangagwa was still in New York on Sunday, where he is limited to a travel radius of 25 kilometers.
His spokesman George Charamba tweeted: “Owing to prevailing weather systems affecting Cuba and zones near it, President Mnangagwa and his delegation will no longer travel to Cuba where he was slotted to pay a two-day state visit… The president is looking at another time to fulfil this needful fixture which brings together two nations on the receiving end of America’s unilateral sanctions. Aluta Continua!”
When a Twitter user said “we hear that Number 2 is not feeling well”, Charamba bristled: “I don’t know what you hear; I am in America!”
Chiwenga has been battling poor health over the last two years, which included lengthy hospitalisation in China for an undisclosed ailment.
On August 11, he was filmed walking into the Trauma Centre in Borrowdale for what sources said was “surgery to correct some discomfort in his stomach.” The operation was reportedly pushed back, but Chiwenga denied he had any medical troubles, insisting that he was “visiting a friend” Vivek Solanki, the owner of the hospital.
In recent weeks, government sources have been briefing that Chiwenga has reduced trips to his Kaguvi Building offices and has cut back on public appearances due to poor health. When he does appear in public, these are very brief, they said.
After state media reported that Chiwenga, who doubles as health minister, would officially open the Gweru Provincial Hospital Opportunistic Infections Antiretroviral Therapy Centre of Excellence last Friday, he failed to turn up. Midlands minister Larry Mavima read a speech on his behalf.
Deputy health minister Dr John Mangwiro also failed to make it to the event. He is part of a team of Chiwenga’s personal physicians.