DESPITE his strong liberation struggle credentials and his surprise ascension to the post of vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko is haunted by his past — his secretive activities in the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) between 1981 and 1987 — and his controversial remarks about Gukurahundi in 2009 when he was Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Botswana.
While Mphoko has narrated to the public his illustrious history in the liberation war, he has not acknowledged that he worked for the CIO during the Gukurahundi period, something which his former Zapu and Zipra colleagues, including former Zipra intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa, find deeply dishonest.
Dabengwa this week described Mphoko as a “deceitful sell-out” who hides information that he was a state security operative after Independence.
“On attainment of independence in 1980, Mphoko was one of the few Zapu cadrés to be inducted into the CIO,” Dabengwa said, in a statement written jointly with the Zipra high command.
Dabengwa also charged that Mphoko ditched Zipra at the height of the struggle.
“In the mid-1970s when the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) was set up in Mozambique to bring together Zipra and Zanla forces, the Zapu contingent was led by Alfred (Nikita) Mangena, with Mphoko still in charge of logistics,” he said. “When irreconcilable differences cropped up among commanders in that force, Nikita pulled back the Zipra contingent to Zambia, but Mphoko stayed back and indicated he would follow at a later date. That did not happen much to the anger of Nikita and the rest of the Zipra command; at this point Mphoko started acting as Zapu representative in Mozambique. As far as Zipra commanders are concerned, Mphoko joined Zanu when he reneged from joining his contingent when they left Zipa to return to Zambia.”
In his colourful profile published by the state media, Mphoko does not talk about his period in the CIO raising eyebrows as to why he does not want to mention it since he was a public servant working under fellow vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa was state security minister then.
Mphoko caused a stir while posted in Botswana in 2009 when he claimed, without elaborating, Gukurahundi was a “Western conspiracy”. He was speaking during a panel discussion on Zimbabwe where he also harangued panellists, including prominent attorney Beatrice Mtetwa, calling them “sell-outs”.
In his curriculum vitae he provided to the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Mphoko summarises his life and political case history thus:
Date of Birth: June 11, 1940
1960 — Joined the National Democratic Party;
1962 — Became Youth chairman of Zapu Mzilikazi branch;
1962-63 — Employed by Dunlop Rhodesia Ltd;
1963 — Arrested for political violence and sentenced to three years in prison. Appealed against the sentence and was granted bail and a retrial. Was also a delegate at the Cold Comfort farm for PCC congress;
1964-65 — Skipped bail for military training in Soviet Union;
1965 — Created the first Zipra military command structure, the military planning committee;
1967 — Became a member of the Joint Military Command in charge of logistics in the Zipra/Umkhonto weSizwe military alliance;
1967 – 68 — Operated in Sipolilo;
1972 — Appointed Zipra chief of logistics and supplies;
1973 — Served in the OAU ad hoc committee to save the unity between Zapu and Zanu in Mbeya, Tanzania;
1974 — Zapu delegate to the World Peace Council in Prague;
1975 — Attended the Victoria Falls bridge Peace Talks as a military delegate. Appointed chief of logistics in the Zipa command;
1976 — Delegate at the formation of the Patriotic Front in Maputo. Later appointed Zapu’s chief representative in Mozambique;
1977 — Attended the OAU ad hoc committee on foreign ministers in Angola. Got married to Laurinda Mphoko with President Jacob Zuma as the best man. Warned Mozambican President Samora Machel of an imminent attack on Chimoio where Zanu leaders were scheduled to hold a meeting resulting in Machel directing that a Patriotic Front meeting be held in Maputo. While in Maputo, the meeting received a report of an attack of Chimoio;
1978 — Appointed Zipra commander to replace Mangena, but declined the post;
1979 — Attended the Lancaster House talks as a military delegate;
1980 — Appointed special envoy for Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo;
1981 — Employed as deputy director for demobilisation in the ministry of Labour and Social Welfare;
Mphoko’s CV is, however, silent on his activities between 1981 and 1987 when he was in the CIO
1987 — Transferred to Mozambique as a liaison officer;
1996 — Appointed liaison officer to Austria;
2002 — Appointed ambassador to Botswana;
2004 — Became a Zanu PF central committee member for Matabeleland North;
2005 — Appointed Ambassador to Russia;
2007 — Negotiated with Russia to use its veto power to block British and American efforts to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe;
2010 — Appointed ambassador to South Africa until this year, and
2014 — Appointed vice-president of Zimbabwe.