VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko has been sucked into a fresh storm
following his appointment as head of Zanu PF’s appeals committee, set to
hear grievances by suspended and expelled members in the past two
years, with war veterans and some party hardliners casting aspersions
over his neutrality.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association spokesperson Douglas Mahiya told NewsDay yesterday that while they welcomed President Robert Mugabe’s move to set up an appeals tribunal, they had serious reservations over Mphoko’s credibility.
“We understand the fact that the President has the sole prerogative to make such appointments. However, the fact that the party has seen it fit to set up a tribunal to hear these appeals means we are admitting there was a miscarriage of justice,” Mahiya said.
Last month, war veterans passed a no-confidence vote in Mphoko, whose liberation war credentials they have also questioned.
Some of Mphoko’s critics claim the VP “deserted Zapu” at the crucial stage of the struggle for independence in Mozambique.
State media columnist Reason Wafawarova yesterday also rubbed salt on Mphoko when he posted a message on his Facebook wall urging the VP to “recuse himself” from the disciplinary hearings.
“So VP Mphoko bungles up in the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) and accrues a plethora of appeals against the arbitrary rulings of his committee, and his party sees it fit to quickly set up an appeals tribunal, the NDAC (national disciplinary appeals committee),” Wafawarova wrote.
“What happens next boggles the mind. The same Mphoko is elevated to preside over the appeals tribunal. I sincerely hope the VP will have the common sense and decency to recuse himself from any of the proceedings affecting people he ‘wrongly’ convicted.”
He added: “It is like being sentenced to death by a judge at the district court, and then you appeal to the High Court, only to find the same judge presiding over your appeal case. So the woman who was suspended for three years for simply chanting ‘Pasi neG40!’ is going to defend herself before the same Mphoko who was convinced that the chant amounted to a serious crime? I think Zanu PF has been infiltrated by clowns.”
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said Mugabe’s decisions were final.
“The President makes that decision and we cannot question it. I do not have power to tell him who to appoint and nobody has,” Khaya Moyo said, adding that he did not have the final list of members of the tribunal as “I understand it’s still being put together”.
Mphoko is not new to controversy. Since his appointment as the country’s second VP two years ago, the career diplomat and former spy agent has been holed up in an upmarket hotel in Harare on taxpayers’ money.
This, despite the fact that government has bought him a house after a gruelling process that saw his wife, Laurinda, rejecting three glamorous mansions “because they did not fit his status as Vice-President”.
A few months ago, Mphoko stoked controversy after he attended a rally addressed by First Lady Grace Mugabe and joined in singing Zezuru Unconquerable, a song perceived to be tribalistic.
At the rally, Mphoko, reportedly a key figure in the G40 faction fighting to stop Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Mugabe, declared that “there is no Karanga presidency after Mugabe”.
This was also interpreted as a direct attack on Mnangagwa, who is of the Karanga tribe.
Scores of Zanu PF activists have fallen victim to the NDC reportedly stuffed with G40 sympathisers, among them Mphoko, Grace and political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Former Harare youth league provincial chairperson Godwin Gomwe, a casualty of “miscarriage of justice by the NDC”, urged Mphoko to “prove your impartiality”.
“I think the situation will change now because Kasukuwere played the biggest part because he was the only one with experience of the politburo save for only (Zanu PF legal secretary Patrick) Chinamasa. Youth league secretary (Pupurai) Togarepi was sitting in the politburo for the first time and the same with Mphoko and Grace, therefore, they played into Kasukuwere’s hands in the decision-making,” Gomwe said.
“I am still deciding on whether to appeal. The leadership has decided and I hope he (Mphoko) will try to be fair this time.”
Gomwe was among seven youth provincial chairpersons expelled by the NDC for “gross misconduct”.
The suspension list also includes women’s league secretary for administration Espinah Nhari, former commissar Webster Shamu, former Labour minister Nicholas Goche, ex-Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema and former State minister Flora Buka, among others. newsday