HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to have made up his decision on who will become his deputies but ex Zipra officials — a military wing of Zapu during the liberation struggle — still want to have a say on who should be picked from their side.
Former Commander of the Defence Forces General Constantino Chiwenga who retired last week, and current minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans, Kembo Mohadi, are widely tipped to be Mnangagwa’s deputies.
According to members of his inner circle, Mnangagwa has already settled the issue of the vice presidents although he is yet to publicly announce them.
Stalwarts from Zipra yesterday told the Daily News that they had not been given enough space to decide on who they want to be appointed in line with their tradition.
Former Zipra political commissar Wilfred Balen said Ambrose Mutinhiri is now the most senior Zipra cadre and has the credentials to take up the VP post in accordance with the Unity Accord signed in 1987.
“From our side we believe (Ambrose) Mutinhiri is the most senior, even the president knows it. The concern from Matabeleland is that the party is now being considered as a regional party.
Zipra was operating from Zambezi to Limpopo, the same way Zanla was operating. We must not be regional. We don’t want someone, who will be put in power just to line his pockets, we want someone who has the will of the people at heart,” Balen, speaking on behalf of the Zipra cadres, told the Daily News.
“We have realised that it is becoming a trend that a VP is being appointed without consultations and this is an issue of concern considering that there is a Unity Accord in place signed between former president Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.
“There should be consensus on who should be appointed. There is need for Zipra and Zapu leaders to sort out the issue; we don’t want people to choose for us the suitable candidate.
“It seems like we have taken one step forward and five steps backwards and that is why we are concerned. When it comes to the appointment of VPs, we are talking about both parties that fought during the war,” added Balen.
Mutinhiri is a decorated war hero with impressive liberation credentials. He is a former diplomat, soldier and Cabinet minister.
He was the Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister until last month when he was cut loose by Mnangagwa when he announced his new Cabinet.
In terms of the ruling Zanu PF party’s constitution, Mnangagwa has to appoint two vice presidents to satisfy the Unity Accord signed in 1987.
The Zanu PF and PF Zapu fought for the same cause during the liberation struggle even though under two different military wings — Zanla and Zipra respectively.
However, following the signing of the Unity Accord — in the wake of a civil war that claimed the lives of at least 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands — the president has been appointing two vice presidents, one from the Zanla side and the other one from Zipra.
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, who was known by his nom de guerre Black Russian, during the liberation struggle where he served as the Zipra intelligence supremo, said the Unity Accord was no longer a consideration in the appointments of the vice presidents.
“As far as we are concerned the Unity Accord no longer exists. So whatever happens, whoever calls themselves Zapu for the continuance of government, we have nothing to say about that.
“All those people that remain are now Zanu and we have nothing to do with them,” Dabengwa said.
As it stands, Kembo Mohadi is most likely to be appointed the vice president from the Zapu side together with Chiwenga from the Zanu side.
But Speaker of National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and Tshinga Dube — who did not get posts in the politburo — are said to be in the frame.
However, speaking to our sister paper the Daily News on Sunday last weekend, Dube admitted that Mutinhiri is the most senior member of Zipra.
“The likes of Mohadi came in much later in the 1970s but what we used to do is to meet and decide. For example, when Joshua Nkomo died we decided that the national chairperson of the party Joseph Msika should be elevated and we did that again with John Nkomo,” he said.
Dube said this was dropped in 2014 when they sought to have Simon Khaya-Moyo replace Nkomo only to find Phelekezela Mphoko’s name featuring.