Rumours about the death of Finance Minister Bernard Chidzero sparked more debate about his successor than whether they were true or not.
The name that was on most people’s lips was that of outgoing Southern African Development Community secretary Simba Makoni, who most people believe was seconded to the regional body by President Robert Mugabe for grooming.
Makoni was the youngest member of President Mugabe’s cabinet starting off as Minister of Youth and rising to the more respectable post of Energy Minister.
His nine-year stint with the regional body and his current international diplomatic standing make him a very credible candidate for the post.
He is most likely to pip current Minister of State for Finance Tichaendepi Masaya who, though quite capable, is believed to be critical of some of the current policies.
The other person tipped to take over is Industry and Commerce Minister Chris Ushewokunze but he joined the cabinet recently and his leap to become the country’s exchequer could ruffle some of his senior cabinet colleagues.
There has been wide speculation that Chidzero is under pressure from his Canadian wife to retire. She believes he has given enough to his country and needs a well deserved rest, something the government seems to agree with but has failed to attain.
The best they did was to vigorously campaign for him to become secretary general of the United Nations which would have been a fitting retirement. His failure to get the post must have been a telling blow to the family.
The rumours which spread around on October 28 forced the government media together with information director Bornwell Chakaodza to visit him at St Anne’s Hospital. Chidzero had collapsed a few days earlier while dictating to his secretary.
He admitted being exhausted because of his globetrotting but said he was fit and fine and raring to go.
“If you thought Mr ESAP was gone you were mistaken. I will wait until ESAP is finished,” he was quoted as saying.
But at the time of going to press, which was more than two weeks later, Chidzero was not back at work. His illness could well provide a good excuse for him to step down. Family might take an upper hand over his desire to see ESAP through.
Chidzero’s hospitalisation, also exposed one of the most closely guarded secrets about local politicians. Do they ever fall sick and if they do where are they treated?
Apart from Edgar Tekere’s treatment in Rumania, only exposed after he had left the ruling party and more as a scorn on the man, very little is said about the illness of the country’s leaders until they are at the point of death.
As far as The Insider remembers, there has never been a report about President Mugabe being ill or in hospital since independence. Is this a deliberate political decision meant to make voters believe leaders are immortal or is it merely meant to stop them from panicking?