VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko has once again ruffled feathers in Zanu PF’s Bulawayo province after telling the provincial co-ordinating committee that the ruling party cannot be represented by touts and lodgers in the June 10 parliamentary by-elections.
Mphoko has proved to be controversial as he made headlines in January for castigating “able-bodied” people for engaging in vending, an occupation he says should be left to physically challenged members of society.
He also accused government institutions of contributing to the marginalisation of Matabeleland, and demanded that the Bulawayo City Council be given full control of Bulawayo Power Station.
Senior party officials this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that Mphoko, who was little-known before his appointment in December by President Robert Mugabe, is desperate to stamp his authority on Bulawayo and Zimbabwe’s political landscape and pushed for the disqualification of some candidates claiming their lowly status would impair the dignity of the party.
Ironically, it is from such people that Zanu PF draws the majority of its support as rural areas are its stronghold.
“In trying to impose himself in Bulawayo, he came across as arrogant and insensitive by ordering the disqualification of those potential candidates he deemed of low status and not connected to him,” one party official said.
The officials claimed that even after politburo member Pupurai Togarepi spoke of politburo directives allowing all interested members to contest the primaries, Mphoko still insisted on the disqualifications claiming, “I am the centre of power in Bulawayo.”
He reportedly made his comments during a party central committee caucus meeting held last week in Bulawayo, attended by the likes of Godfrey Malaba and former Bulawayo mayor Dennis Ndlovu. Ndlovu is currently the provincial interim chair.
“Togarepi was tasked by the politburo to deal with restructuring and other party issues in Bulawayo, but he was bluntly told by Mphoko that “I am the centre of power here in Matabeleland. You are just a young boy; what do you know”?, the source said.
Those disqualified include Khumbulani Mlilo, who wanted to stand in the Pumula constituency, Eliphas Tshuma (Pelandaba-Mpopoma), Christopher Dube, Anthony Ndlovu and Augustine Mpofu who were eying the Lobengula constituency.
Contacted for comment Mphoko referred all questions to the party’s provincial leadership.
“I have nothing to say about that and you need to talk to the people in Bulawayo. Khuluma labo mina angazi lutho. Into nje e-specific kimi yikuti ngingu Mphoko (talk to them because I know nothing. The only specific thing is that I am Mphoko),” the Vice-President said on Wednesday.
Togarepi denied clashing with Mphoko, saying as the secretary for youth, “obviously I would be encouraging as many youths to participate, but that will be within the directions and guidelines of the party”.
“Zanu PF is a mass party and many people would want to represent it. People may not always agree on the criteria, but in the end those chosen were felt to be the best candidates,” Togarepi said.