THE battle for the Zanu PF second vice-presidency continues to unravel amid revelations that former Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa Phelekezela Mphoko met President Robert Mugabe last month to stake his claim to the post soon after the latter’s arrival from Singapore where he sought treatment for an eye ailment.
Party insiders said although Mphoko eloquently stated his case for elevation to the post ahead of party chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo, on the grounds that he was more senior in the hierarchy of PF Zapu that was led by the late Joshua Nkomo prior to the Unity Accord, the bid to win Mugabe’s endorsement was futile.
PF Zapu and Zanu PF merged to form Zanu PF in 1987 following the signing of the Unity Accord.
Mphoko’s attempts to steal a march on Khaya Moyo comes at a time Khaya Moyo is reviving the Matabeleland Action Group (MAG) as a campaign vehicle ahead of the party’s congress in December.
“The President told him that the decision was not his to make and advised him to seek the support of party structures,” said a source, adding “he may have returned empty-handed, but is adamant on challenging Khaya Moyo at congress at least to make a bold statement.”
Mphoko’s argument is premised upon the fact that he was one of the Zipra (Zapu’s military wing) commanders during the 1970s liberation struggle against the colonial settler regime while Khaya Moyo was Nkomo’s personal aide.
However, as one politburo member said, Mphoko’s biggest undoing is his lack of “national clout or visibility”, the consequence of many years spent in intelligence and diplomatic circles outside the country.
“That prevented him from creating a solid support base in the party structures that would have catapulted him to the coveted post,” said the member.
“He does not even belong to a cell or ward in the party. It will therefore be difficult for him to compete against Khaya Moyo who is already in the presidium and served in different cabinet portfolios until his deployment to South Africa in 2000. Even then, he (Khaya Moyo) remained in the politburo coming home regularly to attend its sessions.”
As part of the MAG initiative, Khaya Moyo has invited 10 ministers to meet provincial leaders from Matabeleland at Elangeni Training Centre in Bulawayo tomorrow, as he moves to consolidate his position in the region.
Invited ministers include Patrick Chinamasa (Finance), Joseph Made (Agriculture Mechanisation), Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy), Walter Chidhakwa (Mines), Obert Mpofu (Transport) Saviour Kasukuwere (Environment), Francis Nhema (Indigenisation), Sithembiso Nyoni (Small and Medium Enterprises), Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce) and Douglas Mombeshora (Lands).
“It’s not enough that he (Khaya Moyo) is the favourite enjoys the backing of (Vice-President Joice) Mujuru. He wants to ensure all ex-Zapu officials fall in behind him, hence the decision to revive MAG which will be a campaign vehicle while coming across as the revival of a noble initiative to facilitate development.”
MAG was formed in the 1990s by leading Zanu PF politicians from the Matabeleland region including the late vice-president John Nkomo as a lobby group to campaign for development of provinces widely perceived to be underdeveloped.
In July 1994, it became part of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust which has failed in its mission to bring water from the Zambezi River to save Bulawayo and other parts of Matabeleland from perennial water shortages.