Independent observers say there is no clear choice for the position of Zimbabwe’s second vice president left vacant by Kembo Mohadi, who resigned Monday following an alleged sex scandal involving several women.
They say President Emmeerson Mnangagwa may even toss out a gentlemen’s agreement in the 1987 Unity Accord signed by PF Zapu and Zanu PF, reserving this particular post for Zapu senior members. Some of the people, who have occupied the position since 1987, are the late Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika, John Landa Nkomo and Phelekezela Mphoko, who was booted out of the party following a defacto military coup in 2017, which resulted in Mnangagwa becoming Zimbabwe’s second president.
George Mkhwananzi, an independent political commentator, says if Mnangagwa knows how Mohadi’s voice messages with his lovers were recorded and leaked to the media, which led to his resignation, he already has a candidate for the post.
“My personal opinion is that VP Mohadi was deliberately pushed out of his position in order to open space for a senior military personality probably still serving in the army. The machinations that went with it indicate a carefully orchestrated strategy that involved the Central Intelligence Organization and senior Zanu PF leaders in government who conspired to get Mohadi ejected from power for an offense which is otherwise inconsequential according to the well-known Zanu-PF moral value system. In this regard, it will not be far-fetched to suspect that Mohadi's position was created for the current Army Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda who is expected to retire from his position soon.”
Mkhwananzi said, “Brigadier Mutinhiri's chances are based on the fact that after the death of Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa and the sacking of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko after the coup that toppled Robert Mugabe, he is probably the only surviving member of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army’s High Command as the presidium appears to be favoring former senior army members.
“Next tipped to land the position of vice president is Oppah Muchinguri based on her gender and current position as Zanu-PF's national chairperson. After Muchinguri then comes Tshinga Dube also based on his military seniority in ZIPRA. Others coming as dark horses are Dr. Obert Maminza Mpofu, Simon Khaya Moyo and, remotely, Sithembiso Nyoni.”
According to Mthulisi Hanana, director of the Dumiso Dabangwa Foundation, the person who is expected to succed Mohadi is one that had a senior position in PF Zapu or ZIPRA before the signing of the Unity Accord in 1987.
“If this were to be followed, the front runners are most likely Tshinga Dube and Ambrose Mutinhiri. Mutinhiri has in the past shown interest in the post. Unfortunately, through ZIPRA, he is not tribally-acceptable and his stint at the National Patriotic Front project eliminates him. Mutinhiri, unlike Msika who was Shona, does not have big enough clout in Zapu circles to pacify the people. However, Tshinga Dube is too outspoken and too much of an independent for the comfort of the appointing authority. Mnangagwa is very unpredictable. He just might shock us and appoint Tshinga Dube.”
Hanana said the other “astounding fact” about the Mohadi saga is the call by some women’s organizations for him to step down. “The same organisations are now calling for a woman in the presidium. This woman can be Sithembiso Nyoni. She could be acceptable even ahead of former Governor Angeline Masuku who is both old and sickly. So, if the gender card is played well, Sithembiso Nyoni is our next VP.”
He did not rule out the possibility of Zanu PF’s secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, landing the position of vice president, especially if the gender card is not at play.
“I, however, am wary of Mnangagwa's appointments as he seems to reward his friends and fellow coup plotters with both government and army positions. Two names come to mind - Philip Valerio Sibanda and Obert Mpofu. In the case of the army commander, he has already been promoted and I doubt he would be that gullible to rise on the ashes of a fellow ZIPRA. He is more influential and safer in the army than as a second token vice president. This leaves Obert Mpofu. His defection to Zanu in the 1980s is not going to be a factor the same way Mnangagwa ignored the gentlemen's agreement of unity when he made appointments at Home Affairs and Zanu chairmanship. So for me, Mpofu is highly likely. He would be eliminated only by the gender card.”
But Zifiso Masiye, another independent political commentator believes that Mohadi’s succession should not be at the center of challenges faced by people in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions.
He criticized some of the people who were appointed vice president by the late former President Robert Mugabe and believes that Mnangagwa is expected to do the same.
Masiye said, “… Most of the appointees were generally hopeless, incompetent, self-serving individuals, who carried very little of the real mandate and training of Zapu into a Zanu governance sphere. They were themselves too overwhelmed by their personal stations in life, too overly grateful to the person of the president to be able to be salt that could seriously change the taste and repulsive architecture of Zanu.
“It was easier for them to demonstrate their positional gratitude by turning against their region and the principles of their people than to correct the governance ills of Zanu PF. Often, they would become more hostile to the people or at best they simply abandoned the governance mission, joined the gravy train and showed people the middle finger. I missed Joshua Nkomo and saw all his boys in there in this unfortunate light.”
He said many people remain skeptical about the next vice presidential appointee.
“Is this position not just another false tooth, a place holder that will never bite? What in truth as a governance benefit can be hoped by our people from the next appointee? These are relevant questions as the issue of a replacement arises … An important door is open. The vice presidency of any ruling party and any government is in itself a very very powerful office in any country. It is the second most powerful and most strategic office in the land. Only fools can take that office lightly.
“It is really a question of, whether or not as a people, Matabeleland has a clear political vision and development mission with which to entrust the new incumbent. Even if Mnangagwa were to appoint some of the most astute brains from amongst us to replace Mohadi, if there is no effective community resonance and committed mandate of bare minimums to be targeted, expected and achieved, that office will remain a useless and toothless place holder for our people.”
He said the people of Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces should not be guessing about the next appointee as they are supposed to be appointed vice president for their own benefit.
“There is a massive development gap here and our people are way too polarized, desperate and incapacitated to start to rebuild our city, our municipalities and towns and our rural localities. Where is the community's 10-point plan and development agenda with which you assign the imminent vice presidential appointee, before you all glamour about baseless names. I don't quite care who the name is. I care what the people think that we should set out to achieve.”
He noted that Mnangagwa may settle for a person who is currently in Zimbabwe’s feared military.
Masiye said, “I just hate the idea of the increased militarization of government … And when names of men in military fatigue are touted as potential V.P. in an already highly militarized civil service, I just shudder. You force me to think aloud on who! Yet personally there is no name that is more sound and that carries more dignity and integrity for that office than that of Valario Sibanda. I have immense respect for the man.”
Indications are that the ruling party won’t discuss Mohadi’s replacement when its Politburo holds a meeting on Wednesday in Harare. Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Information Secretary, Nick Mangwana, were unavailable for comment as they were not responding to calls on their mobile phones.
Zanu PF Central Committee member, Joseph Tshuma, told VOA Zimbabwe Service that Mnangagwa is expected to appoint someone to replace Mohadi as per the country’s current and future plans.
“We have some systems in place in the ruling party and ultimately the president will make his own decision on appointing the next vice president of Zimbabwe. I wish like any other party cadre that I will be the next VP.”