Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s rise from oblivion to occupy the second highest office in the land ranks high among the strangest stories in Zimbabwean politics.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
President Robert Mugabe plucked Mphoko from the political dustbin in 2014 to replace the late John Nkomo as a Zapu representative in the presidium.
The veteran ruler ignored protests by Zapu leaders such as Dumiso Dabengwa, who pointed out that Mphoko had deserted the then Joshua Nkomo-led party before independence.
Mugabe was supported by war veterans who shouted down Mphoko’s critics and for a while he appeared to be the former liberation war fighters’ man as some also led his campaign for the vice-presidency.
However, in less than 24 months, the relationship between Mphoko and his backers seems to have broken as the war veterans are now pushing for his ouster.
Mphoko has not taken the attacks lying down and has been singled out as one of the main reasons Mugabe is embroiled in a bruising battle with the former fighters.
The former Zimbabwean envoy to South Africa, Botswana and Russia allegedly presented a damning dossier to Mugabe on alleged activities of war veterans that are said to be pushing for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace the 92-year-old leader.
The dossier included the nine-paged document titled, Blue Ocean — Taking Back Zanu PF allegedly penned by the former fighters.
War veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa last Friday said they now regretted supporting Mphoko against advice from liberation war commanders such as Dabengwa.
“He [Mphoko] was on the grey line and Dumiso said as much on his awol [absence without leave status],” the former minister said.
“The late [Zipra commander] Akim Ndlovu’s record proves that Mphoko’s Zipra wartime colleagues regarded him as a deserter.
“As war veterans chairman, at first I was just not keen on dirty wartime linen being washed in public.
“My mistake, I admit and I publicly apologised to Commander Dumiso Dabengwa at the Entumbane rally [held early this year].”
Mphoko has described Mutsvangwa and his group that also includes Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association secretary general Victor Matemadanda as “undisciplined”.
The former fighters say Mphoko is part of the G40 faction that has been linked to First Lady Grace Mugabe.
G40 is embroiled in a vicious war for the control of Zanu PF with another faction linked to Mnangagwa and enjoys the support of war veterans.
Matemadanda refused to discuss his relationship with Mphoko, including the fact that he had been the first to approach the VP over a possible elevation into the Zanu PF presidium prior to the Zanu PF congress in 2014.
“I do not want to talk about it because it might seem as if I have a personal problem with my seniors,” he said.
“VP Mphoko was appointed by the president and I support his judgement and wisdom in doing so.
However, he revealed that he was among a group of war veterans that opposed the VP’s appointment as they preferred State Security minister Kembo Mohadi.
“It is true that I told Mphoko that I supported Mohadi and that is a fact,” he said.
“If he did not take that well and has a problem with me then ask him. “This does not mean, however, that I have a personal problem with him. I support him.”
The former fighters were instrumental in pushing Mujuru out of the party for allegedly plotting to topple Mugabe.