Former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko made his first public appearance in years at a Zanu PF campaign rally addressed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Nkayi, Matabeleland North, Sunday demonstrating that he is still engaged in politics despite being written off, analysts say.
Analysts said it is also worth noting that Mphoko’s home area is Nkayi, where he could still command support.
Mphoko was deposed during the November 2017 coup that toppled former President, the late Robert Mugabe.
He was the only Vice President at the time and should have assumed the presidency, however, he was ‘sidelined’ and later fired from Zanu PF while corruption cases against him began to surface.
Mphoko has hardly been seen in public since his removal from office but made the appearance at Zanu PF’s star rally in Nkayi with senior party leaders, including Zanu PF second secretaries – Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, Zanu PF secretary general – Obert Mpofu, and political commissar Mike Bimha and was seated at the main tent.
While addressing the gathering, President Mnangagwa summoned Mphoko to the front, calling him Ree (shortened version of his other name Report), and paraded him in front of the massive crowd.
Mnangagwa claimed they grew up together and got along well.
“We did a lot of things together. I thank him for coming here (Nkayi) to support me. I am very grateful, Ree!” the president said.
Analysts believe Mphoko’s appearance at the Zanu PF star rally indicated President Mnangagwa was attempting to construct some semblance of unity and reconciliation to people in Nkayi by displaying the former vice president in the district that he hails from.
“Politicians like Mphoko and Jacob Zuma know that the power of the party is at a local level. Zuma has haunted Ramaphosa from his base in Nkandla. Mphoko might likely be doing the same, haunting the incumbent from his cell and ward in Nkayi,” said Cultural Studies scholar, According to Dr Mlotshwa, politicians always need the people more than other politicians.
“People are the soul of the party, rather than friendship of politicians, which after all is ephemeral in politics. Anyone who speaks about politicians as needing each other simply misunderstands politics. It is about what political power you bring to the table. Political power is about friendship with ‘the people’ rather than with another politician,” he explained.
The scholar also said Mnangagwa may be struggling to personalise Zanu PF and the liberation struggle, the same way former president -Mugabe did and had to resort to reconciliation with liberation veterans like Mphoko.
“They would rather stay in and fight for the soul of the party from within,” he claimed.
Political analyst, Bernard Magugu concurred that President Mnangagwa may have known that Mphoko still had supporters in Nkayi, which is why he was invited, as well as to make sure he had no ties to former Zanu PF commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, who wanted to run as an independent presidential candidate before being disqualified by the Supreme Court.
“For him to be invited in Nkayi, they know he still has some followership, hence they wanted him there, why not other places? Again they want to suck in the G40 element – the cabal, which was vanquished in a military coup in 2017 and smash Kasukuwere,” he said.
Magugu said it was also possible there could be sinister motives in having Mphoko show support to Zanu PF.
“I am sure there are forces behind Mphoko’s presence in Nkayi. These forces could have coerced him to attend with marinated promises since Mphoko hails from Nkayi. I don’t think Mphoko voluntarily attended the Nkayi rally, given that he was part of the so called G40 cabal Since then Mphoko has been quiet, guess nursing his injuries. I am sure he is now being used as a braai stick, once they are done with him, they will throw the braai stick(Mphoko) away!,” warned the political analyst.
Mphoko was also part of the 18 liberation struggle veterans who in July received brand new cars from President Mnangagwa in recognition of their service.
Out of the 18 veterans, 11 were from ZPRA, which Mphoko served, while the other seven were from ZANLA.