Mphoko, the Vice President that never was

Mphoko launches a door to door campaign by Zanu-PF party at Entumbane in Bulawayo.
Mphoko launches a door to door campaign by Zanu-PF party at Entumbane in Bulawayo.

FORMER Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko will be remembered for all the firsts, albeit all negative, in his brief but forgettable tenure punctuated by political blunders, useless projects and chaotic conduct.

Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor (Chronicle)

Mr Mphoko, at his appointment in 2015, was the first from the PF Zapu’s Zipra military wing to be appointed Vice President with his predecessors having come from the former party side.

He was the first of the Vice Presidents on the former PF Zapu side to not only unceremoniously leave office but also while he was alive.

More significantly, Mr Mphoko was the first Vice President from the former PF Zapu side to avail himself to be used to pursue a narrow factional agenda that not only brought instability within the ruling party but threatened its entire existence.

His predecessors from Dr Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika and John Landa Nkomo all died in office from various ailments but all left a great legacy and a good name for themselves.

Apart from signing the historic Unity accord, Dr Nkomo, one of the founding fathers of the country’s liberation, was a larger than life character that it would have been unfair even on Cdes Msika and Landa Nkomo to fill his shoes.

However, on their own personal levels they gave a good account of themselves and died with the respect that Mr Mphoko never got to enjoy in his brief stint in the Government and perhaps for the rest of his life.

To sum it up, the futility of Mr Mphoko’s tenure as Vice President can be equated to his chicks distribution project, a shortlived yet monumental failure of an initiative that never befitted his status in the first place.

While Cde Msika worked tirelessly for the development of the country and the unity of the people, Mr Mphoko and the collective wisdom of his hangers-on, mostly of dubious if not criminal characters, found it worthwhile to distribute day-old chicks to people who could not even afford to feed themselves.

A whole Vice President distributing chicks that started dying at the distribution point, along the way to the homes of the intended beneficiaries with the surviving ones suffering stunted growth.

There was never a single success story of the chicks project just as Mr Mphoko’s barren tenure as former President Mugabe’s deputy.

The chicken project was not even worthy to Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni’s profile.

Minister Nyoni, in a show of broader vision, sought international markets for local producers of road runner chickens to sell their produce and make money.

Having worked in close proximity with Dr Josh, Minister Nyoni showed that she learnt many things from the revolutionary icon while on the other hand Mr Mphoko seemed not to have any memory of Umdala Wethu’s vision giving credence to claims that he abandoned his comrades during the liberation war for a comfortable life in Mozambique.

While the late Landa John Nkomo supported disadvantaged children with scholarships and built the Landa John Nkomo School with state of the art equipment in the heart of Tsholotsho district, Mr Mphoko involved himself in petty fights within the party reducing himself to an extent of participating in petty squabbles within the Bulawayo provincial structures.

To appreciate the extent to which Mr Mphoko was a political disaster, one needs to compare the context of time in which Dr Nkomo conceptualised his development projects compared to Mr Mphoko who came much later.

Those were days before cell phone penetration, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook among other technological developments but Dr Nkomo’s vision saw him coming up with projects like the canning of fruits and tomatoes, breeding of pedigree bulls, mining of gold, tea plantations just to mention a few.

Mr Mphoko even had an opportunity to learn from his then colleague and now President of the country Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa who fronted the successful Command Agriculture programme that boosted the country’s food security.

One wonders what went on in the minds of Mr Mphoko and his advisors when Cde Mnangagwa, his colleague at the time embarked on a massive project like Command Agriculture among others while they found comfort in the chicks project that would not qualify to be a component of the Command Agriculture.

Instead of emulating his colleague at the time, Mr Mphoko allowed himself to be used by the G40 cabal to fight Cde Mnangagwa and purge other party cadres, mostly with liberation war backgrounds, out of Zanu-PF.

Those who witnessed the Central Committee elections in Bulawayo ahead of the 6th Zanu-PF National People’s Congress in 2014 will testify that Mr Mphoko was never in touch with the people and maybe an explanation of his political record.

In the first round of the elections, Mr Mphoko lost to then provincial secretary for finance Cde Charles Chiponda and in panic, his team at the time had to make frantic efforts to convince the electorate to vote him in the second round.

Still, it was not guaranteed that Mr Mphoko would have won had Cde Angeline Masuku not opted out of the race.

From the start, Mr Mphoko’s rise was plagued with illegitimacy that haunted him to a point of surrounding himself with rogue elements who played political advisors leading him on a road to political suicide.

Interestingly, some of the party officials who had played a part in making sure that Cde Mphoko was voted to Central Committee were later purged and removed from the party.

He even turned on his war time friend retired Colonel Tshinga Dube who told this paper of his attempts to show him the light but without success.

Mr Mphoko was a mistake and a blemish to the legacy of former Zipra cadres, a mistake that must never be repeated.

Expectation was that, having served as a diplomat having been deployed as the country’s Ambassador to Botswana, Russia and South Africa, Mr Mphoko would have learnt diplomacy and decorum associated with high offices but alas.

The only solace out of Mr Mphoko’s political record is that he has presented his successors a case study on how not to be a Vice President.